Despite the hefty price tag, there’s a piece of good news about retirees’ health care costs: They aren’t rising as quickly as they were even a few years ago.

A healthy male-female couple retiring at age 65 in 2019 can expect to spend $285,000 on health care expenses in retirement, according to Fidelity Investments’ annual analysis, released Tuesday. Broken down by gender, the estimate is $150,000 for women and $135,000 for men.

The amount is up slightly from $280,000 in 2018. While the annual increase slowed over the last two years — 3.6 percent compared with 12.2 percent from 2015 to 2017 — the amount still poses a challenge for a nation that appears largely unprepared to cover the overall cost of retirement.

Nevertheless, because Medicare is the primary insurer for the 65-and-older crowd, various factors have led to slower increases in older Americans’ health care costs versus those of the general population

The national health expenditure growth is anticipated to average 5.5 percent annually from 2017 through 2026, according to a 2018 report from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ actuary.

In contrast, Medicare’s per-capita spending is projected to grow at an annual rate of 4.6 percent through 2028, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

“It does appear that Medicare is managing the increases a little better than the rest of the health care system,” said Hope Manion, senior vice president for Fidelity Workplace Consulting.

Fidelity’s analysis, which assumes the two theoretical people are eligible for Medicare, includes premiums, copays and other cost-sharing expenses, along with prescription-drug costs.

And, it’s just a starting point. Things that are not covered by Medicare — dental, basic vision, over-the-counter medicines, long-term care — would be on top of that $285,000 estimate.

This article was originally written for CNBC by Sarah O’Brien – CNBC – Tuesday, April 2, 2019

 

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