Survey Finds Retirement Health Care Knowledge Gap

October 20, 2005 ( - Many surveys have shown that Americans aren't generally as well prepared for retirement as they should be, but a new poll illustrates how far behind in the learning curve they are about their health care needs during retirement.

A news release said that of pre-retirees surveyed, nearly 20% have spent “no time” in the past year actively planning for retirement, while more than 30% don’t know what to anticipate for health care needs. Nearly four in 10 have spent less than an hour in the past year planning for health benefits in retirement. Aetna teamed with the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and Women’s Policy to survey Americans aged 45 to 75 about health care and retirement.

The companies added content to a Web site and public education campaign with information about living a healthy and secure retirement, according to the announcement. The new features include personalized tips, tools and articles such as:

  • the Healthy Retirement Readiness Tool – assesses where pre-retirees and retirees stand in the planning process, matching advice to their current level of retirement planning and offering realistic next steps. Users are directed to vignettes about people in similar life-stages, adding personal perspective to all levels of retirement planning.
  • New content covering long term care, Medicare changes, retirement Q&A and tips for a healthy retirement.

According to the survey, when Americans plan for retirement they concentrate on finances, spending virtually no time on health benefits. This lack of attention may be because Americans are vastly underestimating health care expenses in retirement, the announcement said. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed expect to spend less than $300 a month on out-of-pocket costs and health care-related expenses – less than half of the $640 a month the average retiree actually spends.

In a sign of changing times, the survey also revealed that the balance of responsibility for financial planning is shifting. Among those who were already retired, 65% of men took the lead in retirement planning, compared to 39% of women. In contrast, pre-retired men and women are equally responsible for planning, with 54% of men and 48% of women leading the charge.

Other survey results include:

  • a large majority of pre-retirees and retirees expect to pay for prescription drugs (80%) and doctor’s visits (84%) in retirement. Some even anticipate costs related to alternative medicine (29%) and cosmetic surgery (5%), a snapshot of consumers’ health care preferences today.
  • although 74% of respondents said they factored Social Security and Medicare benefits in their retirement plan, 77% are concerned about the financial issues facing these programs.
  • Thirty-six percent of pre-retirees say they spent more time on home improvements than they did planning for retirement in the past year.
  • Eighty-three percent of those surveyed could not correctly identify Medicare Part D, which provides Medicare beneficiaries with coverage for their prescription drug costs beginning January 1, 2006. Fifty-three percent of Americans surveyed would choose health benefits, if they had a choice between receiving health benefits (paid for to supplement Medicare) or a pension in retirement.

Pollsters conducted the telephone survey from September 6-20, 2005, of 1,016 adults with health insurance, ages 45 to 75.