The Hidden Medical Cost Draining Retirement Savings

I have been avoiding the dentist for longer than I care to admit. But recently, I had to schedule an emergency visit after the crown on a molar popped off. The dentist quickly repaired the issue and then told me I also needed a new crown on tooth number 3 right away. In years past, when I had no dental insurance, I might have delayed the procedure. But today I have dental insurance and a flexible spending account. So, when my dentist’s office manager told me the cost of two (porcelain/ceramic substrate) crowns would be $4,200 I didn’t really blink an eye. Insurance would cover $3,1060 and the flex spending account would cover the other $1,040.
No pain.. And then an email from a public relations firm arrived in my inbox.

Subject line: The Hidden Medical Cost Draining Retirement Savings
Body text: When it comes to planning for retirement, setting aside enough money to pay for dental care rarely makes it onto the list of things people are concerned with — but major dental work can quickly drain retirement savings.

– Medicare does not cover dental, and 114 million Americans don’t have dental coverage
– It’s estimated that between 22-25 million baby boomers are in need of major dental work
– The out-of-pocket cost for major dental procedures such as dental implants can range from $25-$50k!

Dr. Michael Tischler, the implant editor of Dentistry Today, has a new book out, Teeth Tomorrow: The Dental Turning Point for Baby Boomers, that breaks down the epidemic of failing dental work that is looming for those over 50, and offers a hopeful solution.
Please let me know if you’d like to speak to Dr. Tischler about how seniors can protect their teeth, and their retirement savings, with some careful planning.

I do want to speak to Dr. Tischler. But in the meanwhile, I did my own research.
The PR representative is correct in saying that Medicare doesn’t cover dental. Original Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care and dentures. And Medigap policies don’t cover long-term care (like care in a nursing home), vision or dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, or private-duty nursing. But most Medicare Advantage plans do offer extra coverage, such as vision, hearing, dental, and other health and wellness programs.

Medicare beneficiaries have other options besides paying out of pocket for dental procedures as well. They can shop for shop for and purchase a stand-alone private dental plan just for seniors or join a dental discount plan or enroll, if possible, in your spouse’s dental plan. Dental Solutions offers dental discount card and AARP offers a stand-alone plan, the AARP Dental Insurance Plan which is administered by Delta Dental.

What’s noteworthy too is that this 2010 report suggests that aging boomers may lack the necessary funds to fully finance their dental care. In this the report also breaks down dental expenditures as a percent of total out-of-pocket medical expenditures in 2006 and shows that these dental expenditures represent 16% of medical expenditures paid out of pocket.

This Kaiser Family Foundation report suggests that average our-of-pocket health care spending by Medicare beneficiaries was 41% of average per capital Social Security income ($13,375) in 2013. That would put general dental expenditures, according to my estimate, at $877 per year for Medicare beneficiaries.
As for how many boomers are in need of major dental work and what the out-of-pocket cost for major dental procedures such as dental implants are, here’s what I found:

The American Dental Association doesn’t track such data, but the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Center for Health Statistics has this information.

This data ultimately shows that dental coverage is and should be a major concern when it comes to retirement. Being able to afford the kinds of procedures that maintain way of life is one reason businesses and boomers are starting this discussion in the first place. But ultimately there are options on how to better fund these costs. HealthyCapital offers a new application that allows users to track how healthier habits can create monetary savings and, in turn, better fund retirement. For more information and blogs like this visit


(read below for additional research)

In Related News:

The Science of Well-Being
Here, according to Coursera, is a fascinating article from Jeff Young at EdSurge on monster MOOCs. “One of the newest blockbuster MOOCs is The Science of Well-Being, offered by a Yale University professor. The University of California at Berkeley has drawn record numbers of students with a similar course on The Science of Happiness. And the University of Queensland offers a course on The Science of Everyday Thinking. All of them offer advice for how to find fulfillment or think more clearly (and all promise to apply science to an everyday concern).

“The Science of Well-Being” taught by Professor Laurie Santos overviews what psychological science says about happiness. The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice. The first part of the course reveals misconceptions we have about happiness and the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do. The next part of the course focuses on activities that have been proven to increase happiness along with strategies to build better habits. The last part of the course gives learners time, tips, and social support to work on the final assignment which asks learners to apply one wellness activity aka “Retirement” into their lives for four weeks.

Study examines mortality trends in diabetes in US

A study in The Lancet showed that while the death rates from all causes, cancers, vascular causes, noncancer and nonvascular causes declined significantly among US adults with and without diabetes, those with diabetes had a significantly greater decrease in death rates for all causes and nonvascular, noncancer and vascular causes. Researchers analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey Linked Mortality files from 1985 to 2015 and found that several noncancer and nonvascular causes of death, including chronic liver disease, influenza, pneumonia, sepsis and renal disease, were significantly higher among those with diabetes. SmartBrief/Endocrinology Advisor

Survey shows varied attitudes on diet, exercise by weight
Survey data from 2,000 people showed a wide range of food attitudes based on weight, with 44% of those at a healthy weight saying health and nutrition was a top concern when purchasing food, compared with a third of those who were obese. Registered dietitian nutritionist Lona Sandon said it is difficult to reverse obesity and people who have unsuccessfully tried diet and exercise may see these strategies as useless. SmartBrief/HealthDay News

Wellness plans with financial rewards encourage smoking cessation
Wellness programs that offer a financial reward to quit smoking may be more effective than programs that offer only smoking-cessation aids such as nicotine patches and gum. However, the “communication strategy around incentives is important in helping to find that motivation regardless, of the dollar amount,” said Christine Brophy, director of research and development for Vitality Group. SmartBrief/Employee Benefit Adviser

Firms step up to help stakeholders address social determinants of health
Town Hall Ventures, Socially Determined and Amazon are among the organizations using analytics and other tools to help stakeholders in health care improve outcomes and reduce costs for the Medicaid population by addressing social determinants of health. Socially Determined founder and CEO Dr. Trenor Williams discussed the importance of investing in social determinants of health at AHIP’s Institute and Expo. SmartBrief/Healthcare Finance

Study looks at prevalence of obesity among US youths
Researchers found that 17.8% and 5.8% of children and teens ages 2 to 19 in the U.S. were obese and severely obese, respectively, between 2013 and 2016. The findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association also showed that severe obesity was significantly more common among youths in nonmetropolitan statistical areas, and both obesity and severe obesity were significantly more prevalent among blacks and Hispanics. SmartBrief/Physician’s Briefing/HealthDay News

Medical expenses force 45% of diabetes patients to pass on medical care
A report issued by health care services provider UpWell Health found that 45% of patients with diabetes have missed out on medical care due to costs, based on a survey of 5,255 patients with diabetes living in the US. Diabetes-related medical expenses can reach $7,900 per person each year, according to the American Diabetes Association, and the report found that 43% of patients spent up to $1,000 out of pocket for diabetes complications, 34% spent personal money to pay for trips to a clinician’s office for diabetes management, and 37% disclosed that diabetes has caused stress in their family, social and work relationships. SmartBrief/Becker’s Hospital Review

Lifestyle influences CVD risk in type 2 diabetes, study finds
A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that type 2 diabetes patients with a low-risk lifestyle factor score of 3 or more were at reduced risk for cardiovascular disease mortality, coronary heart disease, stroke and total CVD, compared with those with a score of 0, which signified higher-risk behaviors. Researchers evaluated data from 11,527 patients, mean age of 63, calculating lifestyle scores based on diet, physical activity, smoking status and alcohol consumption, with higher scores signifying healthier choices. SmartBrief/Healio/Cardiology Today

Survey: Employees want work-life balance, personal well-being
A Thomsons Online Benefits survey of 2,200 employees worldwide found almost 60% want to improve their mental and physical well-being and 75% are focused on achieving a work/life balance. The survey found employees who felt their employer-provided benefits positively affected their lives were more than 40% more likely to say they were loyal to their company. SmartBrief/BenefitsPRO

Auto group sees health, cost benefits from wellness program
The Tune Up Your Health wellness program at Bean Automotive Group in Miami helped employees lose a total of 307 pounds and almost 57% of workers had annual biometric screenings. HR director Jiselle Perez said the company has seen a reduction in nonscheduled personal time off related to illness and about 400 employees have qualified for reduced health insurance premiums because of their participation in the wellness program. SmartBrief/Automotive News

Study shows value of short-term employee wellness initiative
A study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found a 2.5-day employee wellness intervention led to improved energy, motivation, overall health and hours of required sleep for six months. “These results will help us understand how to improve workplace wellness programs to maximize participation and cost-effectiveness, while ensuring employees reap the benefits from them,” said Jennifer Turgiss of Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions, which was involved in the study. SmartBrief/Health Payer Intelligence

Consumers paying more attention to health care costs
Consumers are paying more attention to health care costs and want an experience similar to that of shopping on Amazon when it comes to spending their money. Health care accounts for 7% of a household’s budget compared with 5% in 1972. SmartBrief/Healthcare Finance

OPM tells agencies to focus on employee wellness
The Office of Personnel Management instructed federal agencies to pay attention to employee wellness and spotlighted efforts to improve the health and well-being of federal employees and their families in a recent Federal Workforce Priorities report. The OPM encouraged agencies to collaborate and share ideas, partner with health care providers for onsite health screenings, communicate with employees about available programs and services, and offer health fairs, cooking demonstrations, fitness challenges, walks and education sessions. SmartBrief/FEDweek

Employers look to other benefits to reduce health insurance costs
Employers are offering telemedicine services, weight management plans and wellness incentives in hopes of reducing their health insurance costs. Some offer tobacco-cessation plans and behavioral health plans, too. SmartBrief/Employee Benefit News

Study shows healthy diets could have big economic impact
If 20% more Americans stuck to a healthy diet, the nation would save more than $20 billion in direct and indirect costs associated with heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hip fracture, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions, according to a study scheduled to be presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting. The study indicates that educating Americans on how to improve their diet quality would be financially worthwhile, said lead author Carolyn Scrafford. SmartBrief/HealthDay News

Emphasis on preventive dental, vision care helps save employers money
A recent study showed that employers with high utilization of preventive dental benefits spent 39% more in a six-year period than employers with lower use, but they also spent 86% less on major dental services and 16% less on claims. Likewise, encouraging employees to use their vision care benefits can lead to the early detection of eye diseases. SmartBrief/BenefitsPRO

Combining cash incentives with fitness tracker may encourage exercise
People who received cash incentives along with a fitness tracker and personalized goals were more likely to increase their physical activity level and maintain it, even after financial rewards stopped, compared with those who received a tracking device alone, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. SmartBrief/ABC News

 Financial wellness plans benefit employers, employees
Employers who offer a financial wellness program can gauge how well it is doing is by looking at employee absenteeism, garnishments and participation in other perks such as health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts, says Greg Ward, director of the Financial Finesse Think Tank. Employees are also more likely to be on track for retirement. SmartBrief/Employee Benefit News

_______________________________________________Additional Notes_____________________________________________

Examining the Role of the Employer in Workers’ Financial Security
Successful wellness programs start at the top
Employers Likely to Ramp Up Student Loan Repayment Benefits
PSNC 2018: A Shift in Educating Participants—What Is Financial Wellness?
Visiting national parks may offer health benefits
It’s Not Just About the Money
Employees want financial wellness, just don’t call it that
Researchers link exercise to reduced inflammation in obesity
401(k) advisory firms creating in-house financial wellness programs
Efficacy of the Wellness Focused “Be Orange Challenge” with Tracking to Promote Healthy Behavior Change
Groups Issue Employer Guide for Implementing Wellness Programs
Report predicts spike in value of corporate wellness market
Employees value financial checklist, cash flow worksheets
Hypertensive patients reduce BP, meds with lifestyle changes

I mentioned last month that I attended 2018 Pension Research Council (PRC) Symposium on The Disruptive Impact of FinTech on Retirement Systems at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The papers presented there are still being prepared, but the PRC has posted recordings of the presentations on its YouTube channel. Those presentations can ben be viewed here.