Financial Freedom & Healthcare
In the US at least if you mingle these 2 subjects you quickly find a quagmire. How can one become financially free before 65? Medicare kicks in at age 65 and takes a good portion of the healthcare cost burden off of peoples budgets. However if one hopes to become financially free before 65, healthcare will likely be the most expensive component of your budget equation. Unlike housing, food, and transportation - there are not too many ways to reduce your healthcare costs other than take care of yourself and hope you don't get sick.
How expensive is healthcare? The thing about healthcare costs is that they are very hard to forecast. Folks (like me) who have subsidized healthcare coverage through an employer are often unaware of the true cost of private health insurance or actual healthcare expenses. As we age healthcare costs gets more significant as our bodies wear down and many folks have a variety of chronic health conditions that significantly impacts the cost of individual health insurance (if you can even get it at all).
While I still don't have a clear plan for our healthcare costs once we are financially free, I have some ideas that I plan to explore and potentially leverage for our healthcare strategy once we walk away from my employer:
Current Ideas to Manage Health Insurance When Financially Free:
- Employer Leave of Absence - At the point that I decide to leave my employer, rather than quitting outright, I can attempt to utilize the leave of absence (LOA) program (up to 1 year) that my employer offers. While on the leave of absence I would still have access to my employers group heath insurance plans & employee rate for the LOA period
- COBRA - When I leave my employer I would have access to up to 18 months of group health insurance coverage. COBRA benefits may or may not be the most cost effective option, but at least provide a minimal baseline (or safety net) for healthcare coverage.
- Part Time Work with benefits - I don't have anything specific in mind yet, but I have heard there are companies that offer benefits including group health insurance to part time workers. If so this may be a perfect option for us.
- Group Health Insurance from Professional Organizations - I still haven't found one that may work for us so not sure how useful these are to anyone. Almost seems like a pipe dream to me so far.
- Federal Health Insurance Marketplace - also known as public health insurance exchanges or Obamacare. Still premature to bank on these, but if the goal is achieved, we should be able to find reasonable health insurance via these exchanges that don't charge more for chronic health conditions like individual health insurance. Supposedly Open Enrollment begins October 1st and I'm eager to check out the price points and benefits offered in our state.
- Move to Maine - If all else fails perhaps we relocate to a state or even another country that already provides reasonable health insurance options.
The most exciting prospects to me lie in the future of the federal health insurance marketplace (aka health insurance exchanges). While I'm not suggesting they will be a cure-all for healthcare costs, I hope they will allow people semi-affordable health insurance options who no longer work for a large employer. Whether its early retirement, entrepreneurship, extended unemployment, medical problems that don't qualify for disabled status, etc - offering affordable health insurance options to everyone is generally a good thing for all of us if we can create a sustainable model for it.
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