This past year was a real eye opener for me. I never used to be concerned about health insurance; I was healthy, took good care of myself and never bothered with it unless I happened to have a job where it was part of the benefits. I had lived in Europe for many years and was not used to having to worry about it myself, and resented that I had to pay inflated premiums out-of-pocket for care I wasn’t using, particularly as I tended to use complementary or alternative medicine which isn’t usually covered by insurance anyway.
Last year I had a job with insurance and when I went to the doctor we found that I had a precancerous condition, which in later follow-up visits had developed into stage one uterine cancer. I had the surgery and am now cancer free – but if I hadn’t had health insurance I may not have caught it as early, setting me up to deal with a more developed cancer that would have been much more difficult to cure, if possible at all. I think it’s safe to say that having insurance saved my life, not to mention my bank balance.
This experience has radically transformed how I think about health insurance. I now know that healthy living is no guarantee against disease, nor is alternative medicine a substitute for all forms of conventional allopathic care. Nor will I ever be without health insurance again, even if I have to pay out-of-pocket. I also think about my future much differently.
Now that I have been confronted with my own mortality and what it is like to have to recover from major surgery where you cannot care for yourself I have started to give a lot more thought to what might happen to my health in my retirement years. As a single person without children I cannot guarantee that there will be someone to take care of me when I am older should I become disabled, too sick to care for myself or even need help looking after myself should I need major surgery like a hip replacement. Even if I were married or had children, I still couldn’t guarantee that there would be someone to help out in those circumstances.
This is why there is long-term care insurance, which typically covers the cost of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home nursing care or help in the home with bathing, dressing, eating and cleaning; Medicare and most private health insurance will only cover nursing home stays that are medically necessary and none of the rest. Of course not everyone will need these services. However, if you should need them and you want to have a choice in when and where you receive your care and you want to protect your assets then you might want to factor long-term care insurance into your retirement planning process.
But don’t wait until you are in your 70’s or later to purchase a policy as by then you may no longer be eligible and if you do qualify the premiums can be extortionate. As it is premiums average between $2,000 and $3,000 for someone in their 60’s, so it is quite costly, even when purchased in AARP’s recommended age-bracket, but when weighed against the average cost of a private room in assisted living, which, depending on where you live, could cost more than $35,000 per year, it’s a bargain.