In caring for the elderly, the most heart-breaking experience is not the medical conditions I treat but rather the financial struggles most retirees do not anticipate.
Medicare part A is hospitalization insurance - it is "free" for persons who have worked at least 10 years. Part B is outpatient insurance, costing approximately $1400 annually. Further plans are available for drug coverage etcetera. It is important to know that Medicare never pays more than 80% of the bill - there is no such thing as Medicare payment "in full", there is always a bill which if ignored can result in charges against your estate.
Many elderly are unaware that neither Medicare nor Medicaid pay for long-term care - and most persons end their lives in assisted living or nursing homes. Fewer than 5% of my patients have long-term care insurance for this, meaning they have to heart-wrenchingly liquidate all their savings and most of their assets before the government will pay for their long-term care.
Long-term care is NOT a Medicare benefit. To qualify for the state Medicaid benefit, all but one home and one car must be liquidated and used to pay the cost first. The amount the state spent for your care is taken from your remaining assets (home/car) when it is sold. These fees hit your estate after you die.
In short, you risk financial destitution if you do not plan ahead for long-term care. If you are middle-aged, consider long-term care insurance. If you are elderly and one spouse is chronically ill, consider a financial separation. If you are nearing the end of life, consider hospice care, which is paid for by Medicare and is the most peaceful and humane way to end your days.