What kinds of insurance—and how much—do you need now? What kinds and amounts will you need in ten years or twenty? Financial planning experts recommend assessing your insurance needs and reviewing your coverage on a regular basis, particularly as changes take place in life. This section provides web resources for thinking about health insurance and life insurance for living strong as you pass fifty.

Medicare Preview

Medicare is a health insurance program provided by the Federal government for people 65 years of age or older, people under 65 with certain disabilities, and people any age with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). There are three parts: A is hospital insurance, B is medical insurance, and D is prescription drug coverage.

Part A Hospital Insurance helps cover inpatient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (not custodial or long-term care). Hospice and some home healthcare are also covered. Most people don't have to pay a monthly premium for part A.

Part B Medical Insurance helps cover doctors' services and outpatient care. It also covers physical and occupational therapists and some home healthcare if these are medically necessary as prescribed by your physician(s). You pay an annual deductible and monthly premium for part B. Medicare deductible and premium rates may change each January.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage may help lower prescription drug costs. Part D is optional. Medicare drug plans are run by insurance companies and private companies approved by Medicare. If you join a Medicare drug plan, you usually pay a monthly premium.

If you are receiving Social Security benefits when you turn 65, then your Medicare Hospital Benefits start automatically (Medicare Part A). If you are not receiving Social Security, then you should sign up for Medicare close to your 65th birthday, even if you are not retired or planning to retire.

What about "Medigap" insurance? What is it and do you need it? Medicare supplement insurance is also known as "Medigap" insurance because it covers the costs of health care that the "original" Medicare program doesn't. If you are covered by a health insurance plan (from your workplace or other type of group policy) then you may not need a medigap policy. Medigap insurance only works with the original "fee-for-service" Medicare plan not the Medicare Advantage (formerly Medicare + Choice) plans. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, it's illegal for anyone to sell you a Medigap policy.

Understanding your Medicare coverage can be confusing. Each person's situation is different. The following resources should help you make more informed decisions. And most of the resources include phone numbers or other contact information if you need additional help.

Government Resources

Medicare.gov is the official U.S. Government site for people with Medicare. The Frequently Asked Questions section has answers to over 250 questions. Many of the Medicare publications (and the Social Security site) send you to this site for more information. It also has a detailed section on prescription drug coverage.

The following resources are pdf files and need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them. If you don't have the Reader on your computer you may download it from Adobe.

Other Resources

  • Medicare Rights Center provides information about your Medicare benefits and rights. Sections include Medicare Interactive, Consumer Fact Sheets and more. You can also subscribe to free newsletters: Dear Marci which has basic health tips, Medicare coverage advice, health plan reminder, and links to other resources and Medicare Watch has Medicare Q&As,health care policy news, and changes in Medicare benefits.

  • AARP has sections on Medicare and Health with articles on Medicare, supplemental plans, managed care, and private insurance.

  • Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. has detailed information and FAQ articles including one on Medigap.

Facts about Long-Term Care Insurance

As more Americans are living longer, many boomers are facing the challenge of caring for their parents as they think about their own plans for the future. As part of planning for the future, many financial planners recommend that individuals consider what role, if any, long-term care insurance should play in their financial plan. Although sales of this insurance product have grown tremendously in the last decade, individuals need to carefully study the options available and the suitability for their own situations.

Long-term care is typically defined as assistance with the activities of daily living. Long-term care may be provided in a nursing home, assisted living facility or in your home. Many communities have a range of services available to help with long-term care needs including visiting nurses, home health aides, friendly visitor programs, home-delivered meals, chore services, adult daycare centers, and respite services for caregivers.

Long-term care insurance is designed to help pay for these services. Note that no long-term care policy will pay all long-term care expenses.

These resources provide a place to start learning the basics about long-term care insurance and the questions to ask.

Most state governments, usually the health/human services or insurance departments, provide information on long-term care insurance (and state regulations if any). Virginia has set minimum standards for each of the types of policies covering long-term care expenses. The Virginia Bureau of Insurance Long-Term Care Insurance Guide and Publications contains information about these requirements and other facts on LTC insurance. For other states, we suggest entering the name of your state and "long-term care insurance guide" into your favorite search engine; then look among the listings for your state office.

Life Insurance Questions After You Pass 50

What is life insurance? It is a way to provide income to your dependents if you die prematurely. Do you need life insurance? It depends on your situation. Here are a few examples:

  • If it takes two incomes to pay the mortgage and you have kids at home, then you may need life insurance so that the family doesn't have to move should one of the breadwinners die.

  • If you are the primary caregiver to dependents, you may need life insurance to ensure the ability to have a paid caregiver.

  • If you are single, then you probably don't need life insurance.

  • If your spouse has their own income and you have no dependents, then you probably don't need life insurance.

The need for life insurance changes with your life circumstances. Part of planning for the future includes reviewing your insurance policies to ensure that they still meet your needs. The following resources will be helpful in your review.

  • What You Should Know About Buying Life Insurance (pdf) prepared by the American Council of Life Insurers provides a primer on the types of life insurance and how to buy it.

  • Money Essentials: Life Insurance from CNN/Money. These 2 articles in the Money Essentials series describes the types of life insurance and choosing a policy.

  • Ultimate Guide to Retirement: Life Insurance from CNN/Money discusses the need for life insurance and types in a series of questions and answers.