Health Care for Early Retirees

Health Care for Early Retirees

I’ve been retired for 5 years, so I’m eligible for Medicare — inexpensive and comprehensive!

But my wife Nadine is only 63! She has 2 more years until she can get inexpensive government health care insurance. Her job just ended, so her employer-sponsored health care did too!

Now what? How can we find affordable health care for her early retirement?

No More “COBRA”

It used to be that when you left a job you had the option of continuing the health care coverage from your former company. It was a federal government mandate called COBRA, standing for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Wow! Congress can really stretch the language to create acronyms!

The point was that, with continuous coverage, there was no gap that could cause a precondition calendar to restart. No delays in insurance coverage for asthma, pregnancy, arthritis, any ongoing situation you found yourself in.

It took care of that big issue, but it was also usually very expensive. You would avoid the precondition trap, but you would be in a plan for one, no way to spread the insurance company’s risk over a pool of employees. Less than ideal!

Era of “No Preconditions”

Along comes the Affordable Care Act (not a horrible name!), sometimes called Obamacare. Everyone hated it until the government tried to take it away: “20 million lose healthcare! You can’t do that!”

The provision most loved was that it covered all preconditions! In other words, you could get the same insurance, at the same price, as everyone else no matter what your health history. That meant that birth defects and genetic diseases were not a reason for a company to refuse coverage! It meant that my wife could retire and find “Affordable Care” insurance to replace what had covered her for the past 26 years.That was our idea.

Unfortunately, the structure of the plan drove companies out of the marketplace. Arizona, where we live, was nationally infamous for having only one remaining insurer, who was raising rates an average of 120% last year. There had been no news coverage of what was happening to the plan in 2018.

Searching for Coverage

So we started looking. What companies still offered health care insurance in our county of Arizona. We’re in a pretty rural area, so we thought there might not be very many.

We were exactly right: there was only one. In fact, in the entire state of Arizona, for about 6 million citizens, there was only one company still willing to provide insurance under the Affordable Care Act. One company!

And the national news was also correct: the cost of that insurance was exorbitant. To have coverage would cost us more than $800 a month, with a deductible of $6,000. If you’re not up on your insurance terminology, that means that the first $6,000 of health care costs would come entirely out of our pocket. On top of that, we would be spending $9,600 a year just to HAVE that coverage!

That’s a lot of money for most everyone, but for a retiree on Social Security plus an unemployed school principal? It was out of reach!

How About Medicaid?

The other government program for health insurance is called Medicaid, and it was originally intended for the poorest of the poor. But since I’m retired (Social Security only) and she’s unemployed….

Does make us officially poor? Time to check it out.

After a week of fruitless visits to the state office, bringing paperwork, collecting more paperwork, We are eligible! Yeah! Question answered: low-cost health care for her early retirement!

Is it Right? Is it Fair?

This program’s meant for those with no other options. The homeless, the single moms without resources. Is it right for us to take money from others who need it much more than we do? I feel bad about accepting these state moneys knowing that, in all probability, we would be keeping others from being covered.

Do we have any other way? Are there other options for us? How about all those countries that we keep reading about in International Living magazine? Could we get inexpensive medical care somewhere else?

We Could Move!

We’ve always loved to travel: over 30 years of week-long excursions to Mexican beaches! Visits to 6 Caribbean nations! Then there are our 20+ exchange students around the world — we’ve only visited 4 of them so far. So many others we would really, really ldike to stay with, whose countries we’d love to explore!

Well, then, let’s go! Solve the moral dilemma of taking state funds. Visit with our international ‘kids’. Continue our 40-year history of exploring other countries, other cultures!

It’s settled! We’ll become roving retirees, and find our early retiree health care in less expensive countries!

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