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Why is health care so expensive as a retiree?

While medical care comes at a hefty price, many older folks misunderstand what their responsibilities will be because the health-care system can be confusing for seniors.

Medicare is the primary source of coverage for Americans 65 and up, and it's provided through the government. But traditional Medicare consists of different parts, including:

Part A: Covers inpatient hospital care, hospice care and skilled nursing care or home health care in limited circumstances. Most people pay no premiums for part A, and there's a $1,632 deductible per inpatient hospital benefits period. You also become responsible for covering some hospital or nursing care costs after a certain number of days in a facility.

Part B: Covers outpatient care. You'll pay premiums, which are $174.70 per month for most retirees in 2024 (more for high earners). You're also responsible for 20% co-insurance costs for most medical services and there's a $240 annual deductible.

Part D: Covers prescription drugs. You have a choice of Part D plans, and premiums and co-insurance costs can vary.

You also have the option to sign up for Medicare Part C, or a Medicare Advantage Plan, which is a private health insurance plan that replaces Medicare (Parts A and B, sometimes D) and can include additional benefits, such as vision and dental care. There are different Medicare Advantage Plans available, and costs vary widely.

Alternatively, you can choose a Medigap plan, which is a supplement to traditional Medicare that is sold by private insurers only to those with Medicare Parts A and B. Medigap plans typically help pay for co-insurance costs and some things Parts A and B normally don't cover.

No matter which of these options you choose, though, there are costs involved .

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Making a plan to afford health care

There's no cheap or easy way to get health care as a retiree, so your best option is to prepare for it.

If you're eligible for a health savings account (HSA), contribute as much as you can. You get tax breaks for money you earmark for out-of-pocket care costs in this account. You can contribute with pre-tax funds, invest without paying taxes on gains and make tax-free withdrawals when you use the money to pay for health-related expenses.

It's also important to remember there's a dedicated enrollment period for Medicare, starting three months before you turn 65 and ending three months afterward. If you delay signing up for Medicare coverage, in most cases, you may be subject to a lifetime penalty on your monthly payments.

You'll want to make sure you save diligently for health care — and all your other retirement costs — during your working life so you have the money you need for your golden years by the time your career is over.

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Christy Bieber Freelance Writer

Christy Bieber a freelance contributor to Moneywise, who has been writing professionally since 2008. She writes about everything related to money management and has been published by NY Post, Fox Business, USA Today, Forbes Advisor, Credible, Credit Karma, and more. She has a JD from UCLA School of Law and a BA in English Media and Communications from the University of Rochester.

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