The resulting programme is profession-based: all people working are required to pay a portion of their income to a not-for-profit health insurance fund, which mutualises the risk of illness, and which reimburses medical expenses at varying rates. Children and spouses of insured people are eligible for benefits, as well. Each fund is free to manage its own budget, and used to reimburse medical expenses at the rate it saw fit, however following a number of reforms in recent years, the majority of funds provide the same level of reimbursement and benefits.
In countries which operate under a mixed market health care system, some physicians limit their practice to secondary care by requiring patients to see a primary care provider first. This restriction may be imposed under the terms of the payment agreements in private or group health insurance plans. In other cases, medical specialists may see patients without a referral, and patients may decide whether self-referral is preferred.
Without digging into the nuances of Medicare Part D, I believe there are out of pocket maxes (similar to out of pocket maxes in commercial insurance plans). But you are right, these are not insignificant sums (~$5k – $10K). This is most definitely on my mind when it comes to retiring early and why I, not unlike PoF, am looking to “FatFIRE” to ensure I have plenty of cushion to cover these out of pocket maxes if I were to need to do so annually. This could come from my “retirement cushion”, cut back on vacay, or I may choose to do a little part-time work to help cover costs if something came up. Thanks for raising this important point and consideration!
Given the premium increases  ahead for 2019, it’s essential for anyone who is eligible for premium tax credits – or who might be eligible with an income fluctuation later in the year – to enroll through the exchange if and when they have a special enrollment period. Don’t sign up for an off-exchange plan and miss out on the possibility of much more affordable premiums via a tax credit.
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