Healthcare Planning

Planning for Dental Costs

Planning for Dental Costs

One reason to have insurance of any kind is to protect against potentially high out-of-pocket costs associated with events that may or may not happen. From the insurer’s perspective, the lower the likelihood of a dreaded event happening, such as a house fire, the less the insurance will cost. Each payout may be high, but since there won’t be very many of them, insurers can charge lots of people low premiums and still make a profit. Homeowners don’t mind paying on a policy that may never pay off because the premiums are so low. When it comes to events that are more likely to happen, however, insurers have to figure out a way to make the math work.

Take teeth, for example. As people get older they are more and more likely to need dental care as crowns break, teeth fall out, and gum disease sets in. These conditions are expensive to fix. If you were running a dental insurance company, you’d probably place a cap on the amount you were willing to pay, dental implants can run up to $6,000 per tooth. A full set can cost $90,000 or more. So in running your profitable dental insurance company you might pay for cleanings, X-rays, and checkups, which are predictable, plus some limited amount toward crowns, root canals, and implants. As a person with teeth, however, you would be looking to insure against the really expensive treatments that may or may not happen—the unpredictable, budget-busting events over which you have no control. You can handle the annual cleanings and checkups because those costs are predictable. But if you are retired and living on a fixed income and crack a tooth while crunching down on a piece of popcorn, you may not be prepared to pay many thousands of dollars in dental bills on a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, you would not be able to turn to your dental insurance policy, because it may not pay more than $1,000 or so. That’s the reality of dental insurance in America. In Drilling Down on Dental Coverage and Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries (their pun, not mine), Kaiser Family Foundation presents a good overview of the dental situation for people on Medicare and includes examples of people with low, medium, and high dental needs. Planning for health care expenses in retirement is not complete until you’ve addressed the dental issue and although the concept of dental insurance sounds comforting, signing up for a separate dental plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes dental benefits won’t do it. Because benefits are so limited compared to the potential costs, you will still need to set aside your own pool of money or somehow be prepared to incur high costs with little warning.

What makes the exercise so difficult is the unpredictability of the need for any one individual. According to the Kaiser piece, 49% of people on Medicare have not seen a dentist in the past year. Yet oral health is essential for the prevention of other systemic illnesses, such as infections, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and increased cancer risk, not to mention future dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, which will only become exacerbated if not treated. But even the most dentist-compliant people can face late-in-life dental problems.

Most people on Medicare do not have dental insurance, probably for the aforementioned reasons which the Kaiser paper also discusses—the plans’ coverage limitations hardly make it worth it.

You can see below what medicare covers.

If you have any questions regarding Medicare or your Retirement, contact us and we will guide you!

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5 Steps to Reducing Health Care Costs in Retirement

5 Steps to Reducing Health Care Costs in Retirement

Health care costs will be the biggest expense for most retirees. It’s not a pleasant prospect, but it is a reality.

A 65-year-old couple that left the workforce in 2017 will spend an average of $275,000 to cover medical expenses through retirement, according to the latest retiree health care cost estimate provided by Fidelity Benefits Consulting. That’s a 5.8% increase from the estimate of $260,000 in 2016.

We can’t just sweep this under the rug and hope it goes away. Instead, let’s take proactive steps to deal with the challenges. This list is not all-inclusive, but here are five ways to help put yourself in the driver’s seat on health care.

1. An apple a day

We all learned that adage when we were kids. Even if we don’t always express our gratitude, we are appreciative of our physician. He or she is happy to see us when we need care, but our doctor also finds joy when we own the preventative measures that are suggested. Stay active, remain social, exercise regularly, eat well, and do your best to stay healthy and out of the doctor’s office, save your regular preventive and maintenance care. It will save you money and increase your sense of well-being.

2. The red pill or the blue pill?

Late last year, The Washington Post ran a story entitled, “The Other Big Drug Problem: Older People Taking Too Many Pills.” Researchers estimate that 25% of people ages 65-69 take at least five prescription drugs to treat chronic conditions. It jumps to nearly 46% for those between 70 and 79. Did you know at least 15% of seniors seeking care have suffered an adverse drug event (American Family Physician)? About half were believed to be preventable. In some cases, “polypharmacy” has been associated with an increased mortality risk. Let me be clear here: Make no changes before consulting with your health care provider. But, in addition to the cost savings, you may reap health benefits by cutting back on all the pills. Again, please talk to your doctor to determine where you can cut back.

3. Captain’s log supplemental

You know it and I know it—Medicare doesn’t cover all the incidentals, and it won’t cover costs while traveling abroad. While there will always be out-of-pocket expenses, consider a Medicare supplemental plan, sometimes called Medigap, which may pick up some of the costs Medicare shuns. Prices will vary depending on benefits. While there is an outlay of funds to secure the insurance, it can help prevent nasty surprises and can pick up the slack where Medicare Parts A (hospitalization) and B (outpatient and physicians services) end. Another option is called Medicare Advantage, which allows you to purchase an all-in-one managed care plan. Medicare Advantage includes Part A and Part B, many costs not covered by Parts A and B, and it may also include Part D (prescription drug coverage). If you have enrolled in Medicare Advantage, it’s illegal for anyone to sell you a Medigap policy, according to Medicare, unless you are unenrolling and moving to traditional Medicare. I know this may sound complicated.

You may want to learn more about this, so don’t hesitate and contact us if you need some direction.

4. Don’t overlook the obvious

Falls are a threat to the health of older people and may reduce their ability to remain independent. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually falling sideways, according to CDC data from “Important Facts about Falls.” Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. In 2015, medical costs from falls totaled more than $50 billion, with Medicare shouldering 75% of the costs.

How to prevent falls: Consider strength and balancing exercises per doctor’s guidance. Have your eyes checked. Make your home safer—I’ll spend a moment on this one. Are there uneven floors, carpets that needs to be stretched, or things you can trip on? Add railings on both sides of the stairs. Add a grab bar inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet. Simple preventative measures will pay health and cash dividends.

5. Smart is as smart does

Become a smart shopper. Find the cheapest place to get your prescription drugs and consider generic versions. Some services are now free, including mammograms, prostate screenings, and annual physicals. Check with your insurance provider regarding various tests. Insurance companies negotiate much lower rates with facilities that specialize in specific tests. For example, hospitals and ERs can be much costlier for an MRI than an outpatient MRI center. Catch a problem early and you can save money and heartache. Health care costs are like taxes. You can’t avoid them. But a smart and informed shopper can reduce the financial burden. That’s money in your pocket, and it can lead to a healthier and more enjoyable retirement.

Again, if you want some advice, information or solve any other concern you might have please contact us and we will be happy to guide you!

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