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9 Secrets to Saving on Healthcare Costs During Retirement

The average cost of healthcare for seniors in retirement, including insurance premiums and cost shares like copays or deductibles, is about $499 per month. In other words: The cost of healthcare generally consumes just over one-third of many retiree's income.

This is a staggering statistic given that the average Social Security benefit is only $1,470 per month.

That's why finding ways to save on healthcare costs during your retirement should be top of mind. Yes, a good diet and exercise regimen are a key ingredient to staying healthy, but there are other things you can do. Consider these nine tips.

1. Take care of your health

Finding ways to improve your general health and wellness can lower your out-of-pocket health care costs. After all, fewer trips to the doctor means fewer copays and less money spent on healthcare.

Try these four basic tips to improve your overall health after age 60:

  • Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water. Think cucumbers, watermelon and celery.
  • Eat more protein to protect muscle mass. Muscles tend to shrink and weaken as we age, so it's important to fuel yourself with protein, which is especially helpful to prevent slips and falls.
  • Don't forget to strength train. Strength training burns calories and protects your muscles.
  • Work with your new metabolism. It's no secret that you have to eat differently than you did in your 20s. Eating smaller meals is often best for maintaining higher energy levels and general wellness.

Just be sure to talk to your doctor before you make any changes to your diet or exercise regimen.

2. Reduce stress

Stress often increases with age, leading to a host of health problems. For example, you might worry about your high healthcare costs or becoming a potential burden to your children.

Finding ways to lower your stress can go a long way. There are many simple ways to reduce stress in your daily life. Try things like having a set routine each day, spending more time with friends and family, and reducing your caffeine intake. And don't forget to laugh more.

3. Use your Medicare benefits

It may sound contradictory, but going to the doctor can ultimately lower your healthcare costs.

Most insurance plans, including Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans, come with certain wellness benefits. Getting regular physicals and patient-specific tests can uncover minor health problems before they become major ones.

Let's say a man gets a routine PSA blood test done, which reveals the possibility of low-grade prostate cancer. Early intervention makes the treatment cost far less early on, resulting in fewer trips to the doctor and fewer copays. In other words: lower cost.

4. Save money on medications

The cost of medications for seniors continues to rise at an alarming rate. So naturally, drug costs may be a concern for you.

One of the simplest ways to save is to find the right Medicare Part D plan for you. Start by comparing quotes and talking to an insurance agent who is willing to research the medications you take.

The right agent will have knowledge of all the pharmacies close to your home and plans available in your area. He or she can also help you identify ways to save on your prescriptions.

5. Know the difference between emergency care and urgent care

Some people don't know the difference between emergency care and urgent care. But knowing which option to use in a given situation can save you money: Emergency room visits can cost far more than urgent care center visits.

Your initial reaction might be to go to the ER when you need medical treatment but can't see your primary care doctor. But in many cases, an urgent care facility will serve you just as well at a lower cost.

Start by keeping a list of nearby ERs and urgent care centers handy. An urgent care visit is good for a minor illness or injury, but if your condition is life-threatening, always go to the ER.

Many Medicare Advantage insurance plans also include a "phone-a-nurse" or "phone-a-doctor" benefit, which can serve the same purpose.

6. Request outpatient services when possible

Did you know that some inpatient procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis? Often, doctors choose to have a procedure performed on an inpatient basis, simply for the convenience of the patient and the medical staff. Many procedures do require a medically supervised period of recovery, but not all of them.

The bottom line: There's nothing wrong with asking your doctor if a procedure can be performed in an outpatient clinic rather than at the hospital. If so, the savings can be significant.

7. Choose your doctors wisely

Just because a physician or facility accepts Medicare doesn't mean that your costs will be controlled. There are two things to consider when choosing a healthcare provider who takes Medicare patients:

  • First, check if the provider accepts assignment. This means that the provider has agreed to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for services. If your provider doesn't accept assignment, then your out-of-pocket costs may be higher.

  • Second, choose the right doctor for you. The ideal provider has specialized experience with those age 65 and over, which can save you repeated visits to the doctor. One way to shop around for doctors and specialists is through the physician compare feature on Medicare.gov.

You can use this tool to comparing providers in your area, or you may opt to discuss the topic with a licensed insurance agent. Regardless of which option you choose, shopping around for the right provider might save you money.

8. Use a health savings account (HSA)

Whether you're approaching retirement or already retired, you may have access to a Health Savings Account (HSA) through your employer (or previous employer). Using an HSA can save you money because your contributions are pre-tax dollars and can accrue interest.

And unlike a Flexible Savings Account (FSA), the HSA is owned by you, so it can carry over into your retirement. And there is no deadline on when you can spend the funds.

9. Find the right Medicare supplement plans that are right for you

Perhaps the single best way to save money on healthcare during retirement is to find the right health insurance plan for you, like Medicare Supplement plans.

Your ideal Medicare insurance plan will include ways to help you improve your overall health. As examples, most plans offer smoking cessation programs at low to no cost. A Medicare Advantage plan can also lower your stress by helping you to better manage prescription costs, copays and other health concerns.

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all health insurance plan, so talk to your licensed health insurance agent to find the right set of plans for you.

You can save on healthcare costs during retirement

As a retiree you might have questions about ways to save on healthcare costs. Aside from controlling costs, the most common questions center on the differences between Original Medicare and Medicare Supplemental and Medicare Advantage plans.

So if you have questions, why not request a consultation with a licensed agent today? We're here to help you along the way.

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