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VOL. 129 | NO. 114 | Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dana and Ray Brandon

Shouldering Health Care Costs

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Ray’s Take: The employer health care benefits that began in the 1950s as a perk to lure top workers have become an industry standard that many of us take for granted. Now the pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way in the face of rising health care costs.

These days, we hear a lot in the news about drastic changes taking place with health care, and many of us are wondering where these changes will leave us.

Over the past 20 or so years, companies have been moving away from paying health care benefits for retirees. Per a Kaiser Foundation Family Report, since 1988, the number of large companies providing health benefits for retirees has fallen from 66 percent to only 28 percent. This trend is likely to continue. Responsibility for our own health will more and more be our own.

Are you making your health care decisions these days based on whether or not you have reached your deductible? Perhaps putting off a procedure because you haven’t reached it? How about down the line, after you retire? Will Medicare cover it when you get there?

Taking care of our own health should be a top priority. Prevention may well become an economic decision just like putting money in your 401(k). Health care providers have already begun penalizing consumers for making poor health choices, such as higher premiums for smokers, and rewarding good health choices, such as covering annual physical exams at 100 percent.

Medicare is changing, and not for the better. Responsibility for choices is more and more being pushed our way.

Dana’s Take: My generation has seen employment benefits go from generous to scarce in just a few decades. Competing in a global economy has led many companies to cut benefits such as health care. Public employees can no longer count on the benefits promised, and private-sector employees are already footing more and more of the health care tab.

Even if your benefits package is still attractive, the wise employee will be prepared to cover some of those expenses in the event of a change of ownership or policy. Take care of your health to combat the things within your control and, hopefully, ward off some that may not be.

A gym membership that you use regularly is a wonderful thing to have. And playing a sport never goes out of style.

We never plan to get sick, so plan to be prepared for the day when we may have to shoulder more of our medical expenses.

Ray Brandon is a certified financial planner and CEO of Brandon Financial Planning (www.brandonplanning.com). His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a licensed clinical social worker. Contact Ray Brandon at raybrandon@brandonplanning.com.

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