Travel is at the top of their list if you ask a retiree what they want to do after retirement. Of course, for jet setting trips across the world, who wouldn't want to trade the 9-5 grind in? It sounds like an excellent idea, but how does overseas Medicare coverage work? What would happen if, while traveling abroad, you needed to seek medical care?
Your choices can be limited and, in some cases, incredibly expensive, depending on the type of Medicare plan you have. It is important to consider how your Medicare coverage abroad or outside the United States can contribute to your healthcare needs when traveling before you embark on your travel adventures.
Generally speaking, no. Basic Medicare (Part A and Part B of Medicare) provides healthcare only within the United States and its territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands). There are, however, a few unusual cases where the cost of medical services in a foreign country is covered by Medicare. These circumstances, according to Medicare.gov, include:
When a medical emergency arises that needs urgent medical treatment to avoid a disability or death, you are in the U.S., and the international hospital is closer to the closest U.S. hospital that can handle your medical condition.
When a medical emergency arises, you fly through Canada without unnecessary delay on the most direct route between Alaska and another state, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the closest U.S. hospital that can handle the emergency.
You live in the U.S. and your house is closer to the international hospital than the closest U.S. hospital that can handle your medical condition, regardless of whether there is an emergency.
Traveling on a cruise ship is also an additional condition. When your cruise ship is in territorial water, at a U.S. port, or within 6 hours of a U.S. port, Medicare may cover the cost of medical treatment. In addition to these unusual cases, Medicare does not provide for treatment outside the United States.
You would be responsible for 100 percent of the cost of seeking medical attention in a foreign country unless your care falls under the unusual instances mentioned above. On the opposite, you would only be liable for 20 percent of the bill if your medical treatment DOES suit the above criteria. Medicare Part A will cover inpatient hospital stays in this case, while Medicare Part B will cover emergency and non-emergency medical services, hospital services, and physician services. It is important to remember that prescription medications purchased in the United States are not protected by Medicare drug plans.
If flying abroad is part of your retirement package, you may want to seek extra benefits that will protect you when traveling outside the United States in case of an emergency. Here are a few alternatives to consider:
A Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Medicare Part C) is a type of health plan for Medicare that is offered by a private insurance provider. All the advantages of a basic Medicare plan, plus much more, are covered by Medicare Advantage plans. Some Medicare Advantage plans cover medical emergencies that happen while traveling abroad. It is important to remember that, in combination with Medicare Advantage plans, Medigap plans cannot be used.
Medigap is an insurance plan for Medicare supplement that works along with original Medicare to help offset the expenses that Medicare does not pay for. At present, for international travel, Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N provide emergency health coverage.
Some main features of the Medigap international travel supplement package include:
coverage for the first 60 days of travel
After a $250 premium is met for the year, 80% of the cost of emergency treatment outside the U.S. is covered.
$ 50,000-lifetime limit
It is important to remember that, within particular time periods, certain Medigap programs are only available for registration.
3. Insurance for Private Travel
You may want to consider private travel insurance if you're not planning on traveling often, or if you're looking for a more temporary payment as you travel plan. To complement your Medicare coverage, there are many options for private travel insurance that offer a range of international healthcare benefits.
Overall, international medical emergencies will not be covered by international Medicare alone. There are, however, a number of supplemental plans that can help fill the void. Before you enroll in a Medicare plan or before travel, taking the time to consider which choice is best for you will help alleviate the burden of an unforeseeable medical emergency overseas.
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