Just retired. Too young for Medicare. Needs health insurance. What to do?

Terrilynn Barden Dubreuil

Terrilynn Barden Dubreuil

My friend Terrilynn Barden Dubreuil recently retired as Chair of the Fine Arts Department at McAuley High School. It was a full-time job with benefits, including health insurance. She’s not old enough for Medicare and is in the market for a policy that will fill the gap until she reaches the magic age. I know — she looks like she has a long, long way to go!

She asked people for recommendations and I suggested we put the question to Linda Riddell, who is a fellow blogger for the Bangor Daily News. A health policy analyst, Linda answers insurance questions on her blog Health Unsurance. She never reveals the names of people who send her questions, but Terrilynn gave me permission to use hers in this post.

We all figured there must be lots of people in the same boat as Terrilynn, so … here’s her question and Linda’s answer.

Q/Help! … on best ideas for a health insurance company for a healthy, non-working, near retirement person?

A/The first thing you need to know is that healthcare.gov — also called the “exchange” or “marketplace” — is the only place that you can get subsidies (government help) to buy your health insurance. If your income is less than 400% of Federal Poverty ($45,960 for a household of one person), then you could get subsidies to help pay for your health insurance.

You can head there and find your way through the application and selection process. It will give you plain language summaries of the plans, calculate your subsidy, and execute your enrollment. Even if you do not qualify for a subsidy, you can use the website to look at your options. Your options are the same whether you buy with subsidies or not.

Since you are nearing retirement, you might want to consider consulting a health insurance broker or financial planner. Only a licensed health insurance broker can give you advice on which plan meets your needs, and help you maximize your opportunities. You may have ways to manage your income so that your subsidies will be higher, for example. Ask your friends for suggestions or find a broker on the National Association of Health Underwriters’ directory.

Terrilynn opted for a plan through healthcare.gov, but she also discovered that she is entitled to COBRA coverage. Under COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) many businesses are required to continue group health benefits for eligible employees for 18 to 36 months. The employee has to pay the full premium, which can be pretty steep. You can get more information about COBRA on the Department of Labor website.

Mist Park - Bordeaux, France - watercolor

Mist Park – Bordeaux, France – watercolor

And now, let me tell me what Terrilynn plans to do for work now that she has “retired.” Besides creating beautiful art, she organizes student, adult and family trips through her business Dubi TravelArt. She does it because she loves art and loves to travel. “It’s all about the passion for TRAVEL and ART,” she says. “The tours I do are to introduce others to the joys and amazing experiences of travel. It opens lives so much!”

The Sistine Chapel in Rome

2013 Trip to Italy — The Sistine Chapel in Rome

A student trip to Paris and the Riviera is already planned for next spring. Check out the Dubi TravelArt Facebook page to find out about other upcoming trips or to contact Terrilynn for more information.

Here’s another watercolor — from her 2012 art adventure in France.

Montignac, France - watercolor

Montignac, France – watercolor

And even though this is supposed to be a post about health insurance, I can’t help myself. Here’s one more picture — from a student trip earlier this year to Ecuador & Galápagos.

2014 Ecuador & Galápagos

Ecuador & Galápagos

My advice — follow Terrilynn’s lead — be prudent AND enjoy life to its fullest! And if you have a health insurance question, send it to Linda Riddell.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane Atwood was the health reporter on News Center 6. She's now a regular guest on the Morning Report. Before she became a health reporter, Diane was a radiation therapist/dosimetrist at Maine Medical Center. In 2000, she left the world of reporting to manage marketing and public relations for Mercy Hospital. In 2011, she decided to pursue a longtime dream of being a freelance writer and launched her award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.