As you prepare for retirement, it’s crucial to consider the financial implications of healthcare in your golden years.
Whether early in your career, close to retirement, or transitioning out of work, it’s essential to understand and plan for growing medical costs.
A strategic approach to managing health costs becomes paramount, with the average retired couple 65 facing substantial medical expenses of $315,000.
While building your nest egg, it is easy to comprehend the budget requirements for food, housing, and transportation. No one can easily predict health, but we can say that it becomes more volatile as we age.
Please note this is a complex topic with many contributing factors. The following article will not attempt to cover all aspects of your health needs and costs. We aim to provide insights into reducing healthcare expenses while ensuring optimal care during retirement.
Always speak to a professional financial advisor for tailored advice. If you would like to book a consultation with us, please use our contact form.
Understanding Medicare and Private Health Insurance
Before we dive into how to navigate healthcare costs in Australia, it is vital to know all your options and understand the differences. As with all things, there are pros and cons to each.
You can leverage Medicare for free or low-cost GP visits and prescription medications. Most treatments in Victoria’s public hospitals are free for all Australian citizens and most permanent residents.
You can minimise out-of-pocket expenses using bulk billing services for consultations, tests, scans, and eye exams. Maintaining routine health screens allows for early detection of any issues, and often do not have a co-payment (where you have to pay half or less of the fee). For example, health screenings, vaccines, and annual well visits are usually claimed on Medicare.
Older Australians can also access specialist screenings for free or at a lower cost. These include breast cancer screening, bowel cancer tests, flu vaccine, and, in some cases, shingles injections.
Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of ambulances, glasses/contact lenses or hearing aids. It also excludes therapies such as speech pathology, osteopathy and remedial massage.
Use the national health service tool to find a bulk billing doctor near you.
The Medicare Safety Net is available for those who spend a lot on out-of-hospital medical appointments or tests. This is also offered to those with high pharmaceutical costs. The benefits are measured per calendar year, and you must provide additional information for a claim. Find out more from Health Direct.
Private Health Insurance
Explore private health coverage options, including hospital, extras, and ambulance coverage. Getting personal hospital cover could help you avoid the Medicare Levy Surcharge (extra tax). You avoid Lifetime Health Cover loading if you obtain private health insurance before age 31. With this initiative, the government adds 2% of the yearly cost after 31 years. The max loading is 70%.
The Australian Government Rebate is also available to make private health insurance more affordable. Depending upon your family situation and earnings, this can be a substantial tax offset for those in retirement.
The rebate amount is calculated based on income, age and family status. It’s usually adjusted annually according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and the average premium increases across all health funds.
Comparing private health insurance funds online to find the most cost-effective coverage for your specific needs is essential. Try sites such as Finder or CompareClub.
Make informed decisions by evaluating the necessity of both hospital and extra coverage. Some individuals may not require many therapies or treatments covered in extras, so this type of cover may be less necessary and significantly reduce costs if removed.
Of course, beware of hidden costs and trade-offs. By doing homework, you can make choices that align with your health priorities and financial constraints. For example, Ambulance coverage often requires a higher insurance premium– it isn’t guaranteed within your policy. Choose the level of medical coverage that is right for you.
5 Tips to Reduce Medical Costs in Retirement
1. Preventive Measures
Prevention is better than cure. Embrace a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of chronic conditions, minimising the need for costly treatments.
Prioritising routine health screenings to detect and address potential health issues early, often at no additional cost, can save you a lot further down the road.
The flip side is that the healthier you enter retirement, the longer your life expectancy – the more years you need to prepare for.
2. Medication Savings:
One can further reduce medical costs by considering generic medicines as a cost-effective alternative to brand-name drugs.
Discuss the possibility of switching to less expensive medicines with similar therapeutic effects with healthcare providers.
Since September 1st, pharmacists have also been issuing medications for two months, reducing prescription costs for retirees.
3. Concession Cards
Concession cards, such as the Pension Concession Card and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, can be great for potential medical bill reductions. Understand eligibility criteria and apply for relevant cards to access additional financial support for healthcare.
4. Government Initiatives
Staying informed about government initiatives, such as the federal government’s tax rebate for private insurance, helps maximise retirement savings.
5. Medical Costs Finder
Utilise the Medical Costs Finder provided by the Federal Government to assess the potential costs and coverage for various medical treatments. This can help you make informed decisions on where to get medicines and what your most viable options are.
It considers the many different ‘journeys’ Australians undergoing treatment might have, including:
- What the typical costs for such treatment could be, and,
- How much will be covered by Medicare, an insurer and the patient?
Living a Long and Healthy Life in Retirement
Navigating healthcare costs in retirement requires a proactive and informed approach.
Luckily, many sites and tools assist in making informed decisions suited to your circumstances.
Then, once you have a clearer understanding of what kind of medical budget you will need for your future, you can include it in your financial goals.
Australians can secure a financially sound and healthy retirement by maximising Medicare benefits, carefully selecting private health insurance, and adopting cost-effective health practices.
Stay vigilant, explore options, and seek professional advice to tailor your healthcare strategy to your needs and circumstances.
If you would like to talk to one of our team members to ensure you have enough super growing for your retirement years, contact us at 03 9674 3680 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org