If you are between the ages of 50 and 65 and you are going to be looking for health insurance or are looking for health insurance you need some help. This is a tough age (of course what age isn’t starting with the terrible twos) because you are at a prime age to start developing health problems. Statistically speaking and statistics is the only language insurance companies speak, the insurance company can predict they are going to spend more on 50-65 year old than a 20-45 year old. For that reason premiums are much higher for the older person.
But, we Baby Boomers are a smart group and where there is a will, there is a way. So let’s look at some of the options:
If you currently have a job and are looking to retire or start your own business, you have a couple of avenues you can investigate. First you can inquire if your company will let you buy health insurance through the company plan. If your company will let you do this your employer (assuming we are talking early retirement) may subsidize part of your premiums. If not, you still get group rates which are a whole lot cheaper than individual rates. If you are married and your spouse is still working strongly consider adding yourself to his/her plan if that option is available to you.
The next option (if you currently have a job which provides health insurance) is COBRA or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA lets former employees and their dependents continue their employer’s group coverage for up to 18 months. The best thing about COBRA is it is guaranteed. Your former employer’s insurer can’t turn you down even if you have a chronic medical condition. The worst thing about COBRA is the cost. Your employer generally covers 70% or more of your health insurance premium. With COBRA you have to pay the whole premium plus administrative costs. Industry surveys indicate based on an average premium (for 2007), a former employee would have to pay more than $373 a month for individual coverage and more than $1,008 a month for family coverage.
If you are not currently employed by a company who provides health insurance there are still choices for you. If you have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure you can receive coverage through a state high-risk health program designed to help those with medical conditions that prevent them from getting insurance. Again though like COBRA the premiums can be quite high.
You can also check out professional organizations you could join or are already affiliated with to see if they offer health insurance policies for members. Because these are group plans, the premiums may be less than what you would pay in the individual market.
Finally, there is the individual health insurance option. There has been some progress in terms of offerings of policies for the 50-65 year age group market mainly because insurers see this age group as a potential growth market. Many Baby Boomers are in good health and have higher income than younger people. Also insurance companies hope that retirees will still purchase their products, such as supplemental insurance, even after they’re eligible for Medicare. Some of policies currently offered may have premiums as low as $200 per month for people who are in good health and willing to pay a high deductible. Many insurance advice columnists recommend combining a high deductible individual health insurance policy with a health savings account. HSA contributions are made with pretax dollars, and any money left over in the account at the end of the year is rolled over for future use. Withdrawals are not taxed if used for qualified medical expenses.
by Marilyn Katz