December 1, 2010 / 12:16 AM / 9 years ago

Medical costs for U.S. retirees fell in 2010: institute

Pharmacy tech Maria Santoyo (C) works in Clinica Sierra Vista's Lamont Community Health center in Bakersfield, California October 20, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some medical costs have fallen this year thanks to new health care reform laws, but U.S. retirees will still need hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings to cover their lifetime medical expenses.

According to a report released on Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a 65-year-old woman retiring this year will need to have between $143,000 and $242,000 to cover their health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses in retirement.

Due to a shorter life expectancy, a 65-year-old man retiring this year would need between $124,000 and $211,000.

By saving these amounts, retirees would have a 90 percent chance of being to cover their health expenses, said EBRI, a Washington DC-based nonprofit research institute.

Some costs have fallen from 2009 thanks to changes to Medicare prescription drug costs under health care legislation passed by the U.S. Congress earlier this year.

Last year, EBRI estimated a 65-year-old woman needed between $164,000 and $450,000 to cover lifetime medical expenses, while her male counterpart needed between $134,000 and $378,000.

But Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s health research program, warns against relying too heavily on a specific number.

“Individuals have to assume the risk of longevity,” said Fronstin, using his own 91-year-old grandfather as an example. “You can’t assume that you will be average.”

Reporting by Helen Kearney; editing by Andre Grenon

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