Report: Retirement Health Care Tops $200K

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Americans edging closer to retirement (or who are already there), can’t afford to hear any more bad financial news. But it’s bad news they get from a new study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) that shows the cost of health care in retirement exceeding $200,000 in many cases.

EBRI may well have a dog in this hunt – the organization is funded by a consortium of financial services firms, including pension fund companies, insurance companies, banks and mutual fund providers. So you can’t blame those who take the numbers with a grain of salt. After all, who benefits more from Americans pouring more money into savings than banks, insurers and mutual fund outfits?

Still, the numbers are worth checking out. The study, called Funding Savings Needed for Health Expenses for Persons Eligible for Medicare, focuses strictly on health care costs for retirees, noting that while health care reform "will reduce some health care costs in retirement," American seniors will still need to dig deep to make up for out-of-pocket expenses incurred from their health care needs. The study notes that women, who live longer on average than men, will especially need to save more for health care costs in retirement.

The EBRI study breaks the gender difference down like this: A man retiring in 2010 at age 65 will likely need anywhere from $65,000 to $109,000 to even have a “50-50” shot of meeting his health care cost needs. To raise the chances of covering those costs, EBRI recommends that men save between $124,000 to $211,000.

EBRI says that there’s really no way to avoid saving for added health care costs, given the economic terrain now and in the future “Because employers are continuing to scale back retiree health benefits, and policymakers may soon begin to address Medicare’s funding shortfall, more of the financial costs of health care will be shifted to Medicare beneficiaries in the future,” said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Research and Education Program.

Even more worrisome, the report says that there’s a good chance that U.S. seniors will need even more cash than the data set predicts. Explains Dallas Salisbury, EBRI chief executive officer: “Many workers are generally unprepared for both health care expenses in retirement and retirement expenses.  In fact, many individuals will need more money than the amounts cited in this report.” Salisbury adds that the report doesn’t cover key costs like long-term care needs, which would significantly spike health care costs in retirement.

If you’re nearing retirement – or in the 55-age group that’s at least thinking about sunnier climes and tee-times in the morning - EBRI has some health care cost estimations for you, too. According to the report, Americans at the age of 55 “will need even greater savings when they turn 65 in 2020.”

EBRI says that men retiring in 2020 will need anywhere from $111,000 to $354,000, while needed savings for women range from $147,000 to $406,000, depending on the quality of their health care coverage. The more private employer health care funding you have on tap, the cost “comfort level” can easily rise to a 90% chance that you’ll cover your health care cost needs.

Unfortunately, only about 20% of Americans can expect such coverage from their employers, leaving the rest to personal savings and whatever Uncle Sam can kick in.

That’s a high mountain to climb – but it’s one aging Americans will have to climb to guarantee they can pay for health care coverage in retirement.

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