Seniors and Health Insurance

Even though we have Medicaid and Medicare, it can be difficult to secure health insurance for seniors. We must take into consideration that although these government programs provide medications and surgical procedures that are at times covered 100%, there is still a huge gap in coverage for people living on a fixed income. The average Social Security benefit for retired people is about $963.00 - $1,002.00 according to MSNBC. Trying to live on this income is next to impossible. If a senior has health issues - and many of them do - then the cost of added medications and treatments becomes a real threat to their quality of life. In this article we will discuss health insurance for seniors - what is being done and what we can do.

Understanding Insurance

Purchasing an insurance policy is paying against a calculated risk, the greater the expected risk, the higher the cost of the policy. As we age, we become more susceptible to disease, ailments such as arthritis and rheumatism, and diabetes. Other factors are considered when purchasing a policy, such as whether or not the individual smokes. It stands to reason then that an insurance company will adjust policy rates accordingly. Because as we grow older we are susceptible to long term care needs such as diabetes and hypertension, insurance companies automatically charge more dependent on a person's age. For this reason, a health plan for a senior always has much higher premiums than one for a person under the age of 65.

Planning Ahead

One thing that can be done to ensure that coverage is adequate at retirement is to begin paying for a health insurance program before you reach the age of retirement. As you grow older, the price of this coverage will increase, although to a lesser degree, allowing you to save money in the long run. There is also the so-called "pennies a day" health insurance policy for seniors. Although beneficial, be wary of these. A lot of them do not cover much beyond what Medicare already takes care of and are simply a waste of money. Always be sure to read the fine print before you sign any agreement.

Another good way to plan ahead is through the implementation of your 401K savings plan. Always figure in both the cost of living after retirement and the cost of health care. Just before retirement, sign up for the supplemental plan. Remember, the younger you are at the beginning of the policy, the less expensive the plan will be. This plan should always be supplemental to the government provisions rather than replacing them. Be careful to read any fine print in these plans. Also, it is a good idea to shop around when seeking a supplemental plan.

How Supplemental Plans Work

Supplemental plans should work in addition to your benefits, not as a primary source. They should cover additional doctor visits above and beyond the allowance of whatever Medicare policy you may currently have. Some of the time, seniors must see specialists for particular health problems, and while Medicare may not cover such a necessity, most supplemental health insurance policies will. Very often the secondary insurance policy will pay anywhere from 50-80% of the balance remaining on any special procedures. The thing to consider is that the medication often prescribed for these special procedures costs hundreds of dollars and may not be covered at all by Medicare. This is dependent on the diagnosis, prescription, and how long the drug has been on the market. There are so many variables with the different Medicare plans that it is often very hard to determine which the best is. This is why supplemental plans make the most sense. A lot of times, it may seem that supplemental insurance policies are hardly worth the extra money it takes to implement them. Look at it this way - a policy that costs one hundred dollars per month as opposed to prescription and doctor's costs of over one thousand dollars a month is definitely worth the added expense.

The Best Plan

Probably the best course of action you can take as you reach retirement age is buying into a supplemental insurance plan. When you consider the cost of living, the ultra-high price of many prescription drugs, and the things not covered by Medicare, it only makes good sense to invest in a plan that will take care of your future health issues. Always be wary and check the fine print of these plans. Also, make sure to ask questions as needed. If the insurance agent is unwilling to answer your questions or is vague, its time to move on to the next agent. Protect yourself and you family with a health care plan. You will be very glad you did.

Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.