Estimating health care costs in retirement is an inexact science at best. But it’s essential for you to have some idea of how much you’ll have to pay for health care in retirement, mainly because those costs will be going up over the years as inflation drives up the cost of premiums and services and you require more care as you get older.
Understand Your Plan
One tricky area is estimating out-of-pocket spending for services not covered by Medicare or Medigap, specifically dental, vision, and hearing. If you are lucky enough to have a comprehensive retiree plan may have some or all of these things covered. And some Medicare Advantage plans cover them as well—to a point. The coverage for dental, vision, and hearing tends to be limited, so you should check your plan to understand what their out-of-pocket costs might be should you need services in these areas.
Also, keep in mind that plans can change. Retiree health plans can change their benefits or be withdrawn altogether, and Medicare Advantage plans change their benefits and costs from year to year.
Consider the Costs
When considering future costs for dental, vision, and hearing, assess your own perceived need for these services. How are your teeth now? Do you take care of them, or will neglectful habits catch up to them later requiring expensive crowns or implants? How is your hearing? Is your vision starting to go?
Baby boomers are lucky in that technology has ushered in vast improvements in all of these areas. But they come at a price. Dental implants have replaced dentures for missing teeth. They look and feel like real teeth and last virtually forever—at a cost of about $5,000 per tooth. Digital hearing aids now have microphones that transmit sound to a computer chip, which moderates the volume and amplifies the frequencies needed to help improve hearing. Some can even sync up wirelessly with Bluetooth to your smart phone, enabling you to hear calls through the hearing aid and to use your phone to adjust the aid’s settings. These high-end hearing aids can run $7,000 or more. As for vision, cataract surgery is covered by Medicare but routine vision care can run $300 to $500 a year or more, depending on the frequency and amount of correction needed.
With the exception of dental emergencies, most of these procedures and treatments can be planned for, allowing for prior consultations and cost comparisons. It might even make sense to travel to a destination where services are offered at a substantial discount.
Keep In Mind
The main thing for you to keep in mind is that although you may be fully covered under Medicare and Medigap for hospitalizations and most doctor visits and services, you will be mostly on your own for treatments above the neck, as Medicare does not cover routine care for eyes, ears, or teeth.
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