If current trends continue, we can expect even more cost-shifting from the public to the private sector. Drug plan premiums for seniors in some provinces are already geared to income rather than universal coverage. Since August 2014, a new income-tested deductible under the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan has been imposed on higher-income seniors. “By the time I get to age 65 there may not be anything left of the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan for people with more than a minimal income,” says health policy analyst Dr. Michael Rachlis.
Sun Life’s 2014 Canadian Health Index survey found the average annual personal health care cost for people 18 to 80 years of age was $1,511. “Seniors between the ages of 65 and 80 told us the average amount they paid personally last year was $1,366,” says Kevin Press, Assistant Vice-President, Market Insights at Sun Life Financial.
“I think the most important thing to be aware of is that you have to plan for future health care costs,” says Susan Eng, Vice-President for Advocacy at CARP, an organization that defends the rights of older Canadians. “Most people get sticker shock when they actually have to confront the costs and by then it’s too late.”
So how can you finance escalating retiree health care expenses that are not covered by public programs?
To begin with, making maximum contributions to Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Tax-Free Savings Accounts will help to ensure you can draw on sufficient funds to pay for potential health insurance premiums and health care costs when you retire.
If you continue to be covered by a post-retirement health care plan sponsored by your former employer, you likely have less to be concerned about. You may also have access to well-priced group coverage through alumni groups, automobile clubs or professional associations. Otherwise you have several possible options for funding retiree health care.
Retirees formerly covered by health insurance at work typically have up to 60 days to purchase a “rollover” plan from the same carrier without medical evidence of insurability. However, these plans tend to be fairly limited in how much you can claim on an annual basis, says Sun Life financial advisor Brian Burlacoff.
Nevertheless, Burlacoff says, “If you are not sure what to do, it’s important to grab that rollover plan and run with it for a few months. Then you can submit required health information and get an individual plan that may be more cost-effective or comprehensive.”
Individual plan premiums will depend on the plan you choose, your health, and your age when the policy comes into effect. Dental coverage cannot be purchased on a stand-alone basis. If you start with a higher tier of coverage, there is no problem dropping down to a lower level. However if you decide to move from a less comprehensive plan to more robust coverage in the future, you will likely have to submit up-to-date health information.
Other forms of insurance you can investigate include long-term care insurance and critical illness insurance, which pays an agreed-upon lump sum if you’re diagnosed with one of a series of listed illnesses like cancer or heart disease.