When you’re living on your retirement savings, any opportunity to reduce unnecessary expenses is welcome. There are lots of ways people go about this.
Many sell a house that’s become too big and expensive to maintain, and move into a smaller condo or townhouse. Some people find they no longer need more than one car, so they sell the other to reduce their insurance and gas expenses and get rid of a car payment. Still other people decide to launch a part-time or full-time business, choosing to bring in additional income during their retirement years.
But one expense that frequently seems difficult, if not impossible, to reduce is medical expenses. In fact, if medical costs do anything, they tend to go up. This can put a huge burden on retired people and their families. Thankfully, there are certain things you can do to reduce your medical expenses in retirement.
1. Choose your health insurance carefully.
Not all Medicare coverage is created equal. Those enrolling in the system have a choice between Parts A, B, and C. Parts A and B are the original Medicare plans, while Part C is a Medicare Advantage plan, similar to an HMO or PPO.
Part C premiums are usually lower than those for Parts A and B, so they can be a good choice for retirees - if, that is, you’re fairly healthy.
And if you’re choosing private insurance, make sure you shop around. Look at deductibles, premiums, out-of-pocket costs, how limited your choice of doctors will be - all of these things will end up making a big impact on your total medical expenses.
2. Shop around when it comes to medical procedures.
According to government data that was released back in 2013, and covered extensively by news organizations including The New York Times, hospital charges for the same procedure covered by Medicare vary wildly - by as much as $200,000, in fact.
What does this mean? It means that if you want to save money on medical procedures, tests, or doctor’s visits, you should absolutely begin shopping around. If a hospital in a town 45 minutes away is charging $50,000 less than the one in your city, why not get in touch and see if you can have it done there?
Of course, cost is usually the last reason people go to the doctor or hospital they choose. People want medical providers they can trust, and that’s no less important in retirement than it is during the rest of your life. However, it’s important to be aware that the price you may be charged for something, whether major surgery or a simple test, is not set in stone.
3. Switch to generic prescription drugs.
If you have a chronic illness, you know how expensive prescription drugs can become. In some cases, they can be a senior’s most burdensome expense.
Asking your doctor to switch you to a generic version of the drug you’re taking, if it’s available, can go a long way toward reducing these monthly costs and putting more money in your pocket. Switching pharmacies is another potentially cost-saving option. Some pharmacies have a list of generic drugs at lower costs for 30 or 90 days supplies.
4. Take advantage of free preventive care.
Among the many changes facilitated by the Affordable Care Act is the ability for seniors to get many preventive healthcare treatments free of charge. These include things like flu shots, many adult vaccines, and screenings for things like blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and several different types of cancer.
We hope these strategies help you reduce what you have to pay for medical care.
Unfortunately, no matter how much you do to cut your medical costs, there are certain expenses that are impossible to avoid – like the need for long-term care or assisted living. In these cases, seniors may need to employ other strategies, like selling an unneeded or unaffordable life insurance policy.
Leverage the fair market value of your life insurance asset.
Do you have more life insurance than you need? Has your policy become unaffordable? Do you have a term insurance policy that has served its purpose and you are going to let lapse? Be sure to get it appraised before you take any action.
How do you make an informed decision about which assets you want to keep and which assets you want to make changes in? If you were going to downsize your house, you would get an experienced Realtor to help you price it for you. If you plan to become a one-car household, you get an estimate of sale value on the car you want to sell.
Your life insurance is no different. It may in fact be one of your most valuable assets. There is an active institutional investment market that may be interested in buying your life insurance policy for fair market value. It’s called a life settlement, and receiving fair market value for your life insurance may be more desirable than liquidating some of your other assets.
Make sure that you are properly represented.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re considering restructuring or surrendering a life insurance policy, be sure to contact your CPA or financial advisor for an appraisal of fair market value. You can also refer to the life policy owners section of the LISA website for more information.
About the Author
Jon B. Mendelsohn is CEO and Co-‐founder of the Ashar Group a nationally licensed life settlement brokerage firm dedicated to representing the seller and their advisory team in appraising and securing fair market value for their life insurance. Jon is recognized in the industry as a thought leader and tireless champion for transparency and life settlement best practices. Jon is a sought after speaker on the national stage and a valued consultant to professionals working with sophisticated clients in the planning process. Jon graduated from the University of Florida with two bachelor degrees and a master’s degree. Jon is a proud supporter of the company cause, The Crohn’ and Colitis Foundation of America. He and his family reside in Orlando, Florida.