What health coverage will you need in retirement?

As the cost of providing group benefits increases, fewer employers are providing retiree health benefits. However, many people heading towards retirement are unsure of what financial burden they may face when they're no longer covered by their employer-sponsored benefits plan.

Most people don't know what health and dental coverage they'll require in retirement or the individual products and services available to meet their needs. More importantly, most don't realize the cost of individual coverage because their employer has paid the lion's share of their group benefits coverage while they have been employed.

Fortunately, there are resources available to help you understand what your healthcare costs could be in retirement, as well as the products and services available to mitigate or protect against those costs.

Future health and dental expenses

The easiest way to get a better handle on what coverage you may need in retirement is to review your past health and dental claims. While past claims aren't always an ideal indicator of future claims, reviewing them will at least provide a starting point for estimating your future needs.

It's important to remember that, for most people, their health needs and expenses will increase as they age. One resource that provides insights into future healthcare costs is the National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975 - 2013, an annual report published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) that includes various types of per capita health expenditure by both age and gender. According to the report, Canadians over age 65 consume 45% of provincial and territorial government health care dollars, despite making up about only 14% of the population.

The combination of historical claims information along with statistics for future expected healthcare costs can help you understand what your potential health coverage needs will be.

At the same time, it is important to be aware of any provincial government coverage you may be eligible for in retirement. Choose a province or territory below to find out what services are covered by the health care system in your province.

Many provinces and territories also offer supplementary health coverage for certain residents, such as children, seniors, low income and persons with disabilities or chronic illnesses. This coverage may include medical supplies and equipment, vision care, drug coverage, dental care and home care, among others.

Available health and dental products

Most group insurers offer individual products and services for plan members who are retiring. Your current employer should be able to direct you to information about the individual health and dental products available through your organization's group insurer. This information is also typically available on the insurance company's website.

The product materials should include all the key information you need, including eligibility requirements and the coverage options available. These options can range from coverage for frequently incurred expenses such as vision care, prescription drugs and paramedical services, to coverage for catastrophic health costs such as private-duty nursing.  As well, some product offerings include dental coverage, while others provide dental purely as an option.

You can find information about Equitable Life's personal health and dental coverage by visiting ourCoverage2go™ website.

Cost of coverage

Of course, the cost of retiree health coverage is the factor that will most likely determine what type of health coverage you can afford in retirement. Most insurance providers have tools and resources to help calculate and understand the cost of coverage. For example, online rate calculators allow you to enter your basic information (age, health status, etc.) and select a coverage option to receive a cost estimate. Click here for Equitable Life's Coverage2go quote calculator.

As well, most insurers provide email and phone support to plan members looking to determine the cost of individual coverage. Some employers also provide their employees with education sessions or lunch and learns on any or all of the topics discussed above. These sessions are often available to employees' spouses or partners.

Of course, a good first step is to speak to your financial advisor. He or she can review the potential costs, navigate the options available to you, and help ensure your peace of mind in retirement.