The conclusion of an April column by USA TODAY’s personal finance editor Rodney Brooks deals with “other alternatives to deal with health care in retirement.” Excerpts from the article:

Long-term care insurance

“Planners say people also need to consider that they might need long-term care. And then they need to figure out if long-term care is an option.

“’Do you want to purchase long-term care insurance, or do you want to self insure?’ asks [Katharine] Dean, national director of wealth planning for Wells Fargo Private Bank. ‘That can be $50,000 to $100,00 a year, with most people needing those service for two to five years’.

“Bob Fragasso, CEO of Fragasso Financial Advisors in Pittsburgh, is a proponent of long-term care insurance, starting in pre-retirement. He says there is a 50% chance that someone in retirement will need long-term medical care.

Health Savings Accounts

“’One of the essentials that many consumers should be aware of is health savings accounts’,” says Natasha Rankin, executive director of Employers Council on Flexible Compensation.

“HSAs are tax-advantaged accounts and can be transferred from employer to employer. If you retire, you can continue to contribute, until you qualify for Medicare or another health plan. But they are currently offered by only 30% of employers. And you must have an employer-sponsored HSA if you are to carry it into retirement. Current limits for 2012 contribution at $3,250 for single coverage and $6,450 for family coverage.

The advantages, according to Rankin: ‘They are portable. They are owned by an individual. They are always paired with a qualifying high-deductible health plan. The advantage is that balances roll over from year to year. They allow participants to prepare for health care costs and long-term care later’.

Whatever path you choose, planning is key, the financial experts say.

Fragasso says his firm makes sure all his clients have adequate health insurance and guides them to providers if they don’t. ‘We also test their assets to see if one person has to be placed in custodial care, and the other at home, whether their assets will support that. They still might wish to buy that long-term care as estate preservation’.

“’What they can do beyond financial planning is better healthy behavior’, says Jean Setzfand, AARP vice president. ‘There are so many things you can do in preventative care that can reduce your lifetime costs’. Also, she says, AARP is working on an online calculator that will help people with those estimates. That should be available later this year.”