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How to Reduce Health-Care Costs in Retirement

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When it comes to retirement savings planning, studies show that health-care costs are often the most under-planned expenses in retirement. And while it’s impossible to predict your health-care future, there are ways to reduce these costs.

“When you are talking about saving for health care in retirement the No.1 thing people can do is get themselves in shape,” says Eric Thorne, senior vice president at Bryn Mawr Trust. “It’s going to be the No.1 driver of how much they spend for health care.”

From getting healthy to considering long-term care insurance, there are easy ways to lower the amount you’ll spend on medical expenses in your golden years.

Play the Prevention Game

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act places an emphasis on preventative care that includes free screenings for potential health risks, and experts say those about to or in retirement should take advantage of the tests to identify any problems early and reduce treatment costs.

“People don’t go out of their way to visit the doctor, they don’t want to get testing done but it’s the most common way to get in trouble,” says Thorne. “If you are experiencing symptoms and you never get it checked out it can lead to major problems.”

Be a Financially-Smart Patient

If you do get sick, it’s important to use the medical system appropriately and to your advantage. Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, advises limiting trips to the emergency room to reduce costs. “Unless it’s life-threatening, go to a retail clinic that may cost you $40 whereas the ER might cost you $500.”

She adds that aging patients be aware of their physical limits and may want to give up activities they enjoyed in their younger and stronger days. “There are things you can do to control the costs. For example, older bones may be more fragile so take Vitamin D and be sure to get a lot of exercise.”

Choose the Right Insurance

Life insurance provides a piece of mind that your loved ones will be financially sound in the even something happens to you, and it’s important to choose the right plan for your financial and health situation.

Long-term care insurance can help combat the costs associated with a long-term illness that may involve the expenses of a nursing home or assisted-living. “Long-term care insurance is a very overlooked type of insurance,” says Thorne. “A lot of times when you need care down the road you don’t have a penny for it. Long-term care insurance is well worth the money.”

He says the best time to purchase long-term care insurance is in your late 50s or early 60s when you are still healthy. If you wait until later, he says the rates will dramatically increase.

Invest in the Industry

With so many boomers entering the retirement world every year, experts expect the health-care industry to continue to do well, which could help your portfolio and retirement savings grow. “Buy stock in companies now that will be the future health-care providers,” says Thorne. “Why not benefit from the higher prices?” He likens this move to investing in oil companies when gas prices are high.

It may be hard to think about getting sick when you are healthy, but planning now will prevent a lot of headaches and financial strain in the future. “A lot of people think about it when it’s too late,” says Thorne. “A little preventive care will go a long way in keeping you financially ahead of that curve.”

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