If you’re planning to retire soon, your mind is probably already in a whirl.
Your first concern, of course, is whether your savings will be enough. Even if you have spent a lifetime diligently saving, with an economy like ours, it’s hard to be sure. Uncertainty is the only certainty.
Once you’ve analyzed the numbers and decided that you’re ready to make the big leap, it’s very likely that your second big question will have to do with senior healthcare. Healthcare is an absolute essential. But there are so many options out there these days, it’s hard to know exactly what to do.
To further complicate things, the healthcare landscape keeps changing, but we hope to offer a resource that will help you get started.
Medicare: the Obvious Choice
If you’ve already reached the age of 65, your best option for senior healthcare is probably going to be Medicare. You’ve paid into it for years. Now is the time to start receiving some of those benefits.
Exploring your Medicare options can seem daunting at first, but you may not have to figure things out on your own.
The first step would probably be to contact Medicare itself.
But if you have a friend who has already signed up, ask if they can to explain some of it to you. Plus, there are also third party advisors who are able to provide some assistance.
But there’s one thing about Medicare that you need to know right now— you only have a six-month window during which you can register for Medicare. If you miss that window, you’ll have to wait until the next enrollment period or pay a penalty for late enrollment.
The window for signing up for Medicare Parts A and B is very specific. It begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday and extends until three months after your birthday month. Don’t miss it.
Medicaid: Assistance for the Income-Qualified
Seniors who max out their retirement savings and end up living on a low or fixed income, may qualify for additional assistance from Medicaid— a health care program that picks up where Medicare leaves off, helping cover co-payments and other expenses that Medicare doesn’t take care of.
However, be aware that while Medicaid is funded by the federal government, it is operated by individual states—each of which has its own set of qualifications.
But, if your income is limited, Medicaid is an option worth exploring.
Searching out Your Own Coverage
These days, a growing number of people retire long before they qualify for Medicare at 65.
For them, the range of possibilities is much broader and much more complicated. If you’ve recently retired, you may discover that your former employer will offer a stipend to help offset a portion of your healthcare cost, no matter where your find it.
That brings you to the health exchanges related to the Affordable Care Act. The first thing you have to do is put aside any biases you may have that are based on the news coverage you may have heard about the ACA. The program got off to a very bumpy start. But that had to do with bugs on the website, not the quality of the healthcare that was being offered.
The website is completely functional now. And once you’re registered, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The array of offerings is really quite remarkable, so you’ll be able to customize a healthcare plan that suits your needs.
And yes, you’ll have a chance to check that your physician is part of the plan you’re considering.
Options for Veterans and Their Spouses
There is one more possibility out there. If you are a veteran, a military retiree or the spouse of someone in one of those two categories, there are other options for you.
Veterans who were served at least two years and were honorably discharged may qualify for healthcare through the Veterans Administration. Eligible beneficiaries may also find benefits are available under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Whatever you choose, start your research now. If you start a year ahead, you’ll have plenty of time to compare plans and spend a little time considering which might best fit your health and budget.