A New Look at Healthcare Costs in Retirement

Even for those with Medicare, out-of-pocket medical costs are huge.

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Health benefits for retirees are a relic of the past. Fewer than a third of current workers have any employer subsidy for retiree health insurance, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. In the past, I've written that retired couples will need between $205,932 (Boston College Center for Retirement Research estimate) and $225,000 (Fidelity Investments estimate) to cover healthcare costs in retirement.

A new analysis by the nonpartisan EBRI puts the number for a couple currently age 65 at a staggeringly high $635,000, and that doesn't include long-term-care costs. This ultraconservative calculation is higher than the other estimates because it is designed to give the retired couple a 90 percent chance of having enough money to cover all health bills beyond what Medicare covers.

However, if you are willing to accept a fifty-fifty chance of being able to pay your out-of-pocket expenses, $212,000 would be sufficient for a couple (right smack in the middle of the other two estimates).

EBRI also calculated that a 65-year-old single man will need $331,000 and a single woman $390,000 to be almost completely certain of covering all out-of-pocket retiree health costs. If you're willing to accept a fifty-fifty chance, those numbers can be halved, EBRI says.