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Health Care & Insurance

Health-Care Shock in Retirement

Your insurance premium may not be the same when you relocate to a new town.

People thinking about moving after retirement are more concerned with the weather than they are about changes in health-care costs, according to a recent survey. But a comparison of insurance prices shows that failing to compare Medicare premiums could lead to surprises. That's because rates can vary greatly-by locale, company or both. The low-cost provider you researched so diligently in one place may be one of the most expensive elsewhere.

Premium prices depend on the cost of care in a given community and on the local pool of insured customers. "If you're moving, you shouldn't assume that your costs will be anywhere near what you're paying today," says Peter Landau, vice-president of Longevity Alliance, a network of insurance brokers.

For example, a 67-year-old female nonsmoker might pay $1,383 a year in Chicago for a standardized Plan F Medicare supplement policy, but she'd pay $3,527 for the same coverage with the same company in Miami and $1,207 in Phoenix. With a competing firm, she'd pay $2,736 a year in Miami and $1,440 in Phoenix.

Medicare Advantage plans, based on regional net­works of doctors and services, don't transfer at all. You'll have to enroll anew, assuming an Advantage option is available. The plans aren't standardized, so you'll need to scrutinize benefits.

As long as your health hasn't changed, some comparison-shopping is in order. At Medicare.gov, you'll find a range of rates, benefits and contact information for companies providing coverage in a certain zip code. Or contact a broker who represents a variety of companies and plans.