Health Care Dollars and Aging

Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP® Sandy Adams

I ran across an interesting article recently by Howard Gleckman, author of the book "Caring for our Parents." The article “How we Spend Our Health Care Dollars As We Age” discussed current trends in health care spending for seniors and affirmed for me some of the key issues we discuss with clients regarding health care spending and aging in retirement.

Spending on Health Care Changes with Age

The article referenced recent research by the Employee Benefit Research Institute indicating that out-of-pocket spending for routine health care changes very little after age 65, and remains relatively unchanged even after age 85 for these routine expenses (trips to the doctor or dentist, medications, etc.). That’s mainly because Medicare covers the bulk of those expenses. The story changes dramatically when it comes to very high cost medical procedures/care or long-term support or services. As we age, we are far more likely to need these high cost services (about 27% of those age 65 - 74 had an overnight stay in the hospital during the period of 2010 - 2012, while more than 42% of those 85 and over spent at least one night a hospital during that same period). The key here is this: Medicare is the primary source of health insurance for those over the age of 65. MEDICARE IS NOT LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE.

How to Plan for Potential Health Care Expenses

According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, out-of-pocket costs alone for someone spending two years in a nursing facility can run $24,000 - $67,000. If you do need skilled care for a period of time for either rehabilitation or long term care, the costs can be devastating to your finances. So what do you do to plan ahead for these potential costs?

  1. Discuss options with your financial planner for long term care insurance. There are ways to purchase policies as part of employer groups and associations or individually. There are also new hybrid life/long term care or annuity/long term care policies that may fit well in your overall financial plan.
  2. Discuss options with your financial planner to self-insure the costs for potential health/long term care costs using existing assets. You can earmark specific assets or income streams for those potential future costs in a way that least disrupts your overall financial plan.
  3. Discuss with your financial planner any possible future government benefits that you may be eligible for that might help to cover any future long-term care costs (i.e. Veteran's Aid & Attendance Benefits). Determine if you may be eligible and put the proper financial and legal planning in place for future eligibility when and if needed.

As always, planning now for the future what if's is always better than planning in a crisis. Have a conversation about your future health care and long-term care planning with your financial planner at your upcoming financial review.

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In 2012-2014 Sandy has been named to the Five Star Wealth Managers list in Detroit Hour magazine. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.


Five Star Award is based on advisor being credentialed as an investment advisory representative (IAR), a FINRA registered representative, a CPA or a licensed attorney, including education and professional designations, actively employed in the industry for five years, favorable regulatory and complaint history review, fulfillment of firm review based on internal firm standards, accepting new clients, one- and five-year client retention rates, non-institutional discretionary and/or non-discretionary client assets administered, number of client households served.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Sandra Adams, CFP ® and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Long Term Care Insurance may not be suitable for all investors. Please consult with a licensed financial professional when considering your insurance options.