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Will the health care ruling bail out retirees?

(MoneyWatch) You remember that corny joke about playing a country western song backwards? When you do, you get your car back, you get your house back, you get your lover back, and you get your dog back. That's how retirees might feel about the Supreme Court ruling thatupholds the health care mandate and the health care plan.

Because of the Supreme Court's ruling, retirees and near retirees get to keep the following:

- The closure of the hated "donut hole" in prescription drug coverage by 2020. Repealing the entire health care reform law would have cost retirees millions in prescription drug costs.

- The ability to buy insurance coverage beginning in 2014 on state insurance exchanges without exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Many people who retired before becoming eligible for Medicare at age 65 couldn't buy medical insurance at any cost because of pre-existing conditions.

- Subsidies for medical coverage until 2014 for people who retired before Medicare eligibility at age 65.

- Reimbursement for preventative healthcare tests without co-pays or deductibles. Such procedures include mammograms and colonoscopies, procedures that become increasingly important as you get older.

So should you break out the champagne and celebrate? First off, don't rule out the possibility that Obamacare will be overturned legislatively, as Republicans are vowing to do. If they fail to do that, you'll still most likely pay boatloads of money to buy medical insurance before age 65, unless you receive a subsidy from your employer. And it will still cost a lot of money to pay for prescription drugs even when the donut hole is fully phased out.

To help lower your healthcare costs, ask your doctor about a medically supervised lifestyle program to wean yourself off commonly prescribed, expensive, lifetime maintenance drugs for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Health care reform: Don't count on retiring early
Closing Medicare's donut hole: Why you shouldn't feel relieved
Medicare Part D donut hole: How to close it yourself
Early retirement? 9 ways to find health insurance before Medicare

Today, more than ever, it's a great time to get serious about taking care of your health by eating better, getting more exercise, reducing your stress, and eliminating bad habits such as smoking and substance abuse. Then you can worry a little less about relying on things beyond your control, such as rulings from the Supreme Court and which way the political winds are blowing.

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