Study: Staying healthy doesn't diminish post-retirement health care costs

By Gary Linnell

ProWEB Wire (Industry News)

Healthy retirees face even higher total health care costs over their remaining lifetimes than do the unhealthy, according to new research conducted by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR).

A research brief titled "Does Staying Healthy Reduce Your Lifetime Health Care Costs?" details the study, which found that the expected present value of lifetime health care costs for a couple turning 65 in 2009 in which one or both spouses suffer from a chronic disease is $222,000, including insurance premiums and the cost of nursing home care, and 5 percent can expect to spend more than $465,000. Meanwhile, the comparative numbers for couples free of chronic disease at age 65 are substantially higher, at $260,000 and $570,000, respectively.

According to Alicia Munnell, director of the CRR, "This counterintuitive finding suggests that those currently in good health would be unwise to assume that they will continue to enjoy lower-than-average health care costs throughout their retirement. The reality is that even the healthy can expect to eventually suffer from one or more chronic diseases and are actually more likely to eventually need nursing home care, which can result in high health care costs in retirement."

The Center for Retirement Research study says that the healthy tend to incur higher lifetime health care costs than the sick because:
  • People in good health tend to live significantly longer, and therefore are more likely to incur health care costs over the years

  • Many who are currently free of chronic diseases will eventually succumb to one of the diseases

  • People in healthy households tend to face an even higher lifetime risk of requiring nursing homes and other long term care than those who are not healthy, as they