How do you handle the high cost of health care insurance?

New_ZealandMay 19, 2002

I am looking at retireing early, and two things concern me more than any other. One the cost of health insurance, and two the cost of perscriptions. What have you done to lower these cost? I have just started researching the net on purchasing my RX from overseas for pennys per day for the same drugs that I pay huge dollars for here in Michigan. I read some RV forums where snowbirds that winter near Mexico travel acrossed the border to get their RX filled, but Michigan is a long ways away lol. Thanks in advance.

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same thoughts i have, b-4 i retire early.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2002 at 2:00AM
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About insurance.... it costs. It cost a lot!!! And the premiums go up every year. If you don't have Medicare, it can be a real burden to have coverage.

Shop around for the best price for coverage that you need. Don't pay for frills that you would seldom if ever need (ambulance, organ transplants, etc). Then you have only one decision to make. Pay or do without.

It's a gamble as to whether or not you will need it.

Some people put the amount of the premuim into a special account to be used only for medical purposes. For a reasonably healthy person, this could work out well. Then, if and when a serious illness comes up, the amount is paid to the doctor, hospital etc, instead of being put in the bank. It would take a while to pay off the bills, but it could be done. You have to think of it the same way as you would think of paying for a car, a set sum every month.

A lot of what you will be paying for, if you get insurance, is peace of mind. You know that should you need it, it will be there. Later, should you develop a condition that is serious, you might not be able to find coverage.

Stick with the main line companies. It may cost more, but they will stay in business and have a proven track record for payment. Some of the smaller companies can be rather stubborn about living up to the terms of the policy. A good company will pay off within 30 days, some even sooner.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2002 at 8:29AM
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Join aarp.You cant beat it.Pick the premium that best suits you.As you get up in years there are few things you really need.So instead of high price vacations you spend your money on meds.The months I am short of cash I ask my doctor for samples.He gladly gives them to me.Everything cost money but you cant take it with you.So each day I start it by giveing God thanks and thanks to aarp and the rest will take care of itself.I might add I had belong to two other insurances and both drop our state.But aarp is built for seniors and will look out for us.Goldy

    Bookmark   May 25, 2002 at 12:10PM
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I am thinking that my wife and I will go with a very high deductable to lower the cost of any policy. Hopefully our health will be good and we will be able to pay for routine doctor visits, and only use the insurance for anything major. Thats my plan or at least thats what I hope to do when the time comes.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2002 at 9:33PM
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Hi New Zealand - be sure to look into the senior busses going up to Canada for their prescrips!! Lots of folks here in MA are now taking a bus up for the day, or even overnite with a nice dinner and buying their medications I have read. We are getting close to retirement, just sitting around here looking for some more money, then we're going to file and take retirement. We'll definitely take a bus trip or two to see how it all works out. Fortunately, we don't have too much in medical like some. DH is a diabetic and I simply need thyroid replacement meds monthly and high pb pills. Cross fingers!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2002 at 7:32AM
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Hi New Zealand,

Drugs in Canada are about the same as in the U.S., except that labels are printed also in French.

And, for most - a lot cheaper.

Quite a few have them sent by mail, as well.

Usually need a Canadian doctor's prescription, I think, but some drug companies have that taken care of, especially the ones who ship quite a large amount to the U.S. Can check some prices locally, if you're interested.

joyful guy/Ed

    Bookmark   February 25, 2003 at 1:26AM
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I don't have any health care insurance.

I can visit whatever doctor that I choose - if I can find one. I heard the other day that in London, Ontario, a city of over 300,000, no doctors are taking new patients.

I began with a new doctor about 3 years ago - a short distance out of town. A relative would have taken me into their clinic, though they were not accepting new clients.

I pay no fee for needed medical care with my doctor, including one physical exam annually.

When referred to a specialist, I pay no fee for those services that are necessary (doesn't cover cosmetic surgery - face lift, etc.).

Sometimes I must wait for a while for non-emergency care (even when substantial pain, reduction in mobility, is present, I understand).

I don't pay for ward care (4 persons per room, usually) in hospital for needed services.

Some people pay insurance to cover semi-private care, etc.

I pay for no drugs when in hospital (but people are being discharged much more quickly than in earlier years). I pay for drugs when not in hospital.

If I ride in an ambulance, I understand that the fee is something like $250. - not covered.

In Canada the medical system provides care that is needed. The bottom line is not profit.

In several European countries where high quality medical care is provided on a similar basis, it costs much lower percentage of their gross national product than in Canada. The Canadian system operates at a much lower percentage of the GNP than is true in the U.S.

But in the U.S. something better than 10% of the population isn't covered by insurance (though most of them get some kind of treatment, I expect).

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, many U.S. health care corporations want to get into the Canadian market - with their eye on the bottom line.

With our eye on our continued quality health care for all at reasonable cost - many of us Canadians hope that they do not succeed.

Good wishes to all for continued good health - and high quality health care when you need it, at reasonable cost.

joyful guy/Ed

P.S. Everywhere in the developed world, medical care is becoming increasingly expensive. My stepmother's brother, in his mid 80's, has had 3 hip replacements. Organ transplants, by-pass surgery, and many other complex procedures, each occurence of which is very expensive, were rare or unknown 50 years ago. EB

    Bookmark   April 6, 2003 at 12:42AM
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We thought the same thing before retirement. We knew Health ins. would be more, but it's crazy!
We couldn't keep the policy we had for over 1,000 a month. Then the new policy raised their monthly by 100 only one month after taking it, and it will have another increase in July. Right now it is taking 1/3 of our monthly income. With our high deductable, we basically are paying all our medical cost out of pocket. That is almost 1/2 of our income. If we had any idea it would be THIS bad, my husband would not have retired at 62. It will be two years before he get Medicare and five more for me.
Hind-sight tells us he should have worked longer, but then the stress could have done him in too! Can't win!

I just want to say, check out all angles first.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2003 at 12:15AM
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You live in MN - not far from Canada.

Take a few days' vacation and travel over the border, then quiz a lot of people about their medical system.

Maybe you should move in.

Good wishes for continued good health.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 4, 2003 at 12:03AM
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But.....I think it is important to have health care insurance even if you have to give up somethng else to have it......Believe me I was shocked when the bills started coming in for surgery and treatment for breast cancer.....It was a tiny thing that required much less than many but the fees were outrageous....and you just never know......I would have sworn that BC wouldn't get history at all in the family etc.... rave on about Canadian health but I read a lot of horror stories about Canadian health care ..including waiting many months for things that should be taken care of right away. A friend has BC and she has waited months for much needed tests....her story is just one of many that I have been told of or read about....I would rather pay a high premium and know that the service was going to be there for me when I need it.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2003 at 1:42PM
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You may not realise that most pharmaceutical companies have a program to give drugs to people who qualify. My sis talked to a rep from Merck, they give free drugs to people who make less than $14,000 a year. She said other companies have similar programs. My doc wants me on chlorestal meds and I won't take them. I would take life saving meds, but not for chlor. I have been told by two doctors and a nurse that after a certain age it doesn't do any good. I met a woman who's husband takes it and he is 81 years old. Such a waste of money.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2003 at 10:03PM
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The richest nation in the world and we let some of our seniors go without food to afford needed medication. We also have thousands of children without proper medical care. I am sorely ashamed of our country!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2003 at 7:58PM
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You said it Don!!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2003 at 11:33PM
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Best medical care in the world? yeah, IF you can afford it!

We are struggling to hold on to our policy... for catastrophic coverage! Most of the people I know in our age group (40s-50s) either have no coverage or worry the same way we do (and most of them have kids).

The latest statistic I read was that 11% of the population of the USA was uninsured... more uninsured requiring medical care they can't pay for means more bankruptcies, more increases in health insurance, etc.. No end in sight...

We're the only "first" world nation who doesn't have healthcare for its people. I'd like to see my tax dollars directed to basic coverage for EVERYONE.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2003 at 5:19PM
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I couldn't agree with you more!

I got into a terrible argument at a Christmas party with a member of the board of directors of the company my husband works for, and his wife, over this very issue. (My comments were precipitated by the fact that my mother, who worked hard her entire life, but for close to minimum wage, finally had to turn to Medicaid to pay for her nursing home costs.) This couple is Morman, and they said I was being totally irresponsible in stating that our government should provide for the poor. Their contention is that people should plan ahead and provide for their own old age.

I finally asked the wife if she came from a wealthy family. She said no, from a poor one. I pointed out that if she hadn't been fortunate enough to marry this very rich man, she would be in the exact same position as those poor elderly people who cannot provide for themselves.

That ended the discussion.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2003 at 11:11AM
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I agree wholeheartedly with the need for a health care system. Remember when President Clinton first took office, one of the things he did was set a committee to look into it. Well, wouldn't you know, the AMA, insurance companies, drug companies and conservatives in Congress engaged in scare tactics and screamed "socialized medicine" and "You won't get to pick your doctor" and things like that and it worked.

Instead we got HMO's which people complain about all the time! They're not out for the patient but for the bottom line. It's time to realize that the private sector is simply not equipped to handle health care for a country this size.

Makes me mad that we could have had some sort of system in place for 8 years or so by now.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 1:42PM
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How much does Medicare pay toward doctor bills, expensive operations (bypass)? Do they pay a percentage?

Could someone recommend a good Internet site to find out more about Medicare?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 5:50PM
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Go to the authorized site:

This is where you'll get the best information available. Another helpful site is AARP:

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 8:54PM
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A suggestion (given with some trepidation, by a furriner),

If you guys are unhappy with your medical system, don't forget - this is an election year.

Granted, it costs huge amounts to run for nomination, let alone for office once nominated, and guess who pays those fees.

But if wnough citizens raise Cain - they'll need to listen.

Citizens still have the vote, don't forget.

joyful guy

    Bookmark   March 31, 2004 at 12:44AM
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I've not missed an election since I turned 18. You'd best believe I'll be voting in November. My senators know who I am, so do my congressmen... THEY work for ME... that's how a democratic republic operates.

My mother is presently in the hospital for major surgery (been there for 10 days now) and will be moved to a skilled nursing facility to get "up to speed" so she may return to my home. She has Medicaid and a supplementary policy (AARP). I have written virtually NOTHING from her bank account to pay for the expensive, extensive care she's received in the past 9 months. She has bladder cancer... nearly always attributed to a lifelong history of smoking... her pack a day "habit" has cost her dearly in the waning years of her life...

Good thing my brother and I, as well as my husband work to pay for it! Guard your health, do the simple things that will give you "10 fingers" in your old age...

    Bookmark   April 3, 2004 at 5:24PM
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I'm sad to hear that your mother has had to cope with some cancer.

It is hard to deal with that - even if one's trouble is of one's own making.

My family has a history of weak lungs, which I share. I started to smoke at age 16 and after a few months decided that I didn't care for either the taste or, being frugal, the cost - so quit.

Now enjoying good health at age 75, I'm very thankful that I had the common snense to do that.

And often suggest to others that I hope that they decide to quit, so increase their chances of enjoying such a prolonged and healthy retirement, as well. I try not to come off judgementally about it - and few have given a surly response. Some have thanked me.


I hope that you were not upset by my rather joking and somewhat smart-assed suggestion that you consider moving to Canada.

Seriously, have you considered taking on a part-time project to produce some income?

The nice thing is that you are your own boss, you can do the kind of thing that you are interested in and good at, and can do whatever you choose at your own speed. You don't have the pressure to produce enough to live on - as you had planned to get along on the retirement income that was already in place.

I subscribe to a newsletter that discussed some of the issues related to that just this week - can send you URL if you wish (don't know it at present - but can look it up).

On the internet might be possible. Some sell on ebay, etc.

I feel that it would be preferable if you have knowledge that you can sell, whether by newsletter, ezine, etc. Possibly even personal consultation, whether on the internet or even by phone. Easy to send the messages - better than having to wrap and ship products, I think.

I find that it is difficult to find people to reply showing interest in your offer, let alone subscribing, for there is so much material there already. Many don't like what they see and have been turned off regarding the whole thing.

I have an idea that might be of interest, which I've checked out around here, but have minimal information that might be helpful to you.

Good wishes as you proceed with your retirement. I hope that you enjoy it and have the good helath to be able to do a number of the things that you've looked forward to doing for a number of recent years.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2004 at 11:42PM
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I grew up in Texas. Parents were divorced. My mother worked and bought her own beauty shop. We never had health insurance. We paid our doctor with my mother's income.

When did it become necessary for everyone to have FREE health care? Get a job. Pay your bills. Most cities have charity clinics and hospitals for the poor. And that is what medicade is for.

Next everyone will want the govt to pay for their transportation, or housing, etc.

There is nothing more expensive as something the Goverment wants to give you for FREE.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 10:57PM
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Nothing from our government is "free", Dave It's paid for by the taxpayers. My father worked until his death at 69. My mother worked until last August (she was 76). They paid for two homes, countless vehicles and raised two kids. They saved and when my father died he left my mother debt-free and with money in the bank.

Who foots the bill for your healthcare, davew26? your employer? you? or do you simply pay out of pocket? how much to do you pay each quarter? In any case, you'd best hope your health remains excellent, and you'd be well advised to salt away a lot of money for future "rainy days"... either that, or start finding out what the future holds for working slobs in the 35-55 age group (is that you?).

The scary part about it is that the taxpayer already pays for the "retired"/elderly/ "indigent"/every federal/state/local gov't. employee. And that includes every elected official... and 45 million UNINSURED citizens, many of who WORK pay taxes to accomplish it. Shouldn't those hardworking souls be able to access affordable health care, too... without waiting until a medical condition is needlessly costly to treat or bankrupting themselves in the process... ?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 5:12PM
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New Zealand,

One thing you may consider is to raise your deductable to a very high amount, say $5,000. Then open a health savings account (HSA) for things that are les than $5k. contributions to HSA's are tax deductable now.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2004 at 8:07AM
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Depending on your past history of health...

I'm "self-insured". I go to the gyn for my mandatory yearly inspection ($120), get the mammagram during the health drive (35), get blood work from LabCorps online site (89), got the $150 per year dental insurance which makes visits & cleanings & x-rays free... dental work at a VERY reduced price, and ALWAYS ask for the 'uninsured price' at docs and hospitals -- cash or credit card work wonders when they're 'under the impression that they'd have $50 worth of work to file insurance papers'.

Prior, I'd been paying $500 a month ($6K per year) for "insurance" with deductibles that were never met, I was still paying all the costs, but paying the higher 'insured' rate, PLUS the 'insurance' premiums.

Just something to think about.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 12:35AM
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How interesting, JerriElliJay, we're now looking for health ins and was wondering how the high deductible would benefit us, but also get a HSA? How does that work?(I'm not ins savvy) but hubby & I are currently without any health ins. and we are worried. But if you're in good health do you need health ins? Anybody have any insight? or is for that 'in case if needed'? Thanks for good reading posters!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 1:24PM
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Garden Momma: your rhetorical (?)question as to needing ins if you're in good health is, I think, a little naive. EVERYONE is in good health until they aren't. And, as a general rule, one's health does not improve with age. Bottom line: yes, you need insurance.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 3:17PM
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In reply to leel,

I don't think I'm as naive as you think, but it seems there's insurance for this and insurance for that...., what about just plain simple care for all? I understand things come up (I have been in a few situations where I needed serious med care), I think I could have avoided it if I had taken better care of self) and have appreciated much the insurance we had at the time. But the after cost were still there and still owe. You can't really 'win for losing'. It reminds of that saying 'Nothings for sure except death and taxes". It just gets so frustrating when we can give care for other countries and we don't even (Supposedly) don't have enough for our own and I am for helping others but seems like we could do better for us....There should be equal care for all...But that's just wishful thinking!!!Anyway, sorry about venting a little. I do Hope All are doing well and do have a sunshiny day, no mattter what it's like...:)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2005 at 7:04AM
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As one who works in the insurance world, I also have great concern about where health care expense is going in the USA--no efforts since the 1980s have made any positive changes. We all hear the reasons: the insurance company; the doctor or the patient want something more out of it than deserved--and so it goes on.
I for one would like to retire before 62 if I could. My wife is 3 years older and can go on medicare then. I am prepared to go without coverage (the suicide approach I know) but buying any coverage looks like a $1,000 month deal by then--at the rate we are going. My aunts in the British Isles pay nothing. Even tho the Clintons tried to pump up the Health care issue here in the early 90s, it was shot down before it ever got off the ground. With fraud in so many programs in the US, it seems like nonsense to bring more headaches into the picture here. I for one believe that the sheer numbers of uninsured people in this country--are bound to be swelled by aged baby boomers like me--and will force some kind of public issue on this subject within the next 10 years-- as more insurers squeeze people out of the system by price. This may end working to an advantage for me because I do not want to work till 65/66. I could walk at 59 if health care was not an issue--my wife and I are very frugal; have very low spending habits and do not want to see the world. Only inflation could wreak havoc with us. My mother died at 59 from health related issues in 1975. It was fortunate then that health care insurance was cheap as she had a long rap sheet on illness that no one today could sell to a health insurance company. I dread to think what she would think today. Her final surgical bill in 1973 was a colostomy total $2,000 !!! Even then a good solid savings account could handle that part of a billing. What would a surgeon charge for that today? I still have ma's bill.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 12:11AM
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