Vanishing retiree health care benefits
decline of retiree health benefits
Courtney C. Coile, assistant professor of
economics at Wellesley College and a research
associate of the Center for Retirement Research
at Boston College, says the number of companies
with 200 or more workers that offer retiree
health insurance fell from 66 percent in 1988
to 33 percent in 2005.
The trend continues in the private industry and government. "Future retirees are less likely to have
retiree health insurance and those who (do) are likely ... to pay more for it,"
Health insurance doesn't come cheap, even when you're
young and healthy. But as you age, becoming more prone to disease and illness,
it skyrockets. Until Medicare eligibility kicks in at 65, many Americans who retire
before then are left with few health care options.
What can you do if you're contemplating retirement
before you reach Medicare eligibility and you lose health insurance benefits?
Here are some expert suggestions:
you take any action, find out where your state stands on health insurance. Take a look at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute's consumer guide,
which is a state-by-state
rundown summarizing your rights and the protections available to you under
your state laws.
- Check to see if you
qualify for another group plan -- perhaps
through your spouse's employer or a fraternal
organization. Can you join a professional
or social group that carries member insurance?
Find out. It may be worth becoming a part
of the organization simply for the health
- Like Ron Harper,
buy an individual plan with a high deductible. Many dislike individual policies because
they often come with high deductibles and
pay for little or no routine care. But even
if you set aside the money you save by not
paying the premiums and don't spend it,
if faced with a catastrophic illness, you
may quickly run through your savings and
find yourself with a mountain of unpaid
- Don't change jobs unless you know the status
of your health insurance. Does your new company offer it? What will it
cost? Can you qualify for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
of 1985) benefits? Research
your rights under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
of 1996) before changing insurers.
living a healthier lifestyle right now. Don't neglect preventive medicine.
Have annual physicals and other routine tests as you age. Keep your teeth and
gums in top-notch condition. Exercise, eat right and quit smoking. The healthier
you are when you retire, the less medical attention you will need.