Because most workers receive health benefits from their employers, retirement often disrupts health insurance coverage. Some employers offer health insurance to retirees, but many firms are cutting retiree health benefits by passing more costs to retirees or eliminating benefits altogether. Few alternatives exist. Private nongroup coverage is generally quite expensive, and few people in their 50s and early 60s qualify for publicly financed benefits. Many workers who cannot obtain retiree benefits from their own employers or their spouses' employers delay retirement to age 65, when Medicare coverage begins. This brief examines the availability and cost of health insurance coverage at ages 55 to 64 and changes in coverage after retirement. Today most workers with employer health benefits retain their coverage when they retire early, although their required premium contributions have increased sharply over the past ten years. In the future, however, steady declines in the share of younger workers with access to retiree health benefits may jeopardize income security for the next generations of retirees.
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