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Do I Need Medicare When Living Abroad?

When you consider your retirement goals, travel may be one of your top priorities. For many, retirement is the time to explore and make those dream adventures a reality. 

However, medical emergencies and poor health can happen anywhere. Knowing what coverage you need and how Medicare fits into the picture can help you make empowered choices and give you peace of mind in your travels. 

In this article, we’ll outline what Medicare may cover, what other options are available, and how you can care for your health while living abroad. 

Does Medicare coverage apply when I’m abroad?

Generally speaking, Medicare will not cover care, services, or supplies you receive outside the United States. (For clarity, that means the 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.)

However, there are some limited situations where Medicare will cover care provided in a foreign hospital, such as when a foreign hospital is closer to your home or if you need care at a Canadian hospital while traveling between Alaska and another state. Additionally, if you are on a cruise ship within 6 hours of a US port, you may be covered for medically necessary health care services. 

What other options do I have for medical coverage?

Although Original Medicare may not cover you while you are out of the country, you have other options. 

Medicare Supplement plans

Medicare Supplement plans C, D, F, G, M, and N provide emergency coverage for international travelers. This is typically limited to a lifetime cap of $50,000 and is limited to the first 60 days of your trip. These plans will cover 80% of charges for certain medically necessary expenses after you have paid an annual deductible of $250. 

Medicare Advantage plans

At a minimum, Medicare Advantage plans must cover the same medical care as Original Medicare. Therefore, your Medicare Advantage plan will cover the same exceptions noted above. Each Medicare Advantage plan is different, so their level of international travel coverage will vary. If you know that you plan on doing a lot of foreign travel, you will want to ensure that your Medicare Advantage Plan provides the coverage you need

Travel Insurance Plans 

Another option to consider is purchasing a travel insurance plan.

Travel insurance typically includes coverage for emergency medical treatment, hospital stays, and medical evacuation, ensuring travelers can receive medical care without incurring substantial expenses. Some policies may provide coverage for pre-existing conditions, depending on the terms and conditions of the insurance plan.

Do your homework. Compare different plans to find the best fit for your needs and conditions. Start by evaluating your health status and pre-existing conditions, and consider whether your plan will offer coverage. Review exclusions or additional requirements. 

Next, compare the coverage details of various plans, such as medical coverage, emergency medical evacuation, trip cancellation/interruption, and baggage loss or delay. Reading reviews and seeking professional advice can also help you narrow your decision. 

Should I keep my Medicare Coverage if I’m Living Abroad?

If you live abroad, you can maintain your Part A coverage in the United States without additional costs, provided you are eligible for premium-free Part A. However, this is not the case for Part B. Since Part B requires a premium payment, you must continue paying the monthly installments to retain the coverage.

It is important to note that even if you keep your Medicare enrollment active while living overseas, you cannot use Medicare to cover medical expenses outside the United States or its territories.

However, it is better to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B, even when you are living in another country. Paying Part B premiums means Medicare will cover your care whenever you travel home, and you will not face penalties or coverage gaps.

If your Medicare Part B lapses while abroad, you could come home and go months without any coverage because you may have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (January 1- March 31) to enroll. 

Accessing Healthcare and Prescriptions in Another Country

Medicare When Living Abroad - Cheerful Mature Travelers Couple Standing With Backpack On Street Outdoor

For seniors who have relocated abroad from the United States, accessing healthcare services and medications can require some planning and preparation. 

Here are some essential tips and best practices to ensure a smooth experience. 

Researching and understanding the healthcare system in your new country of residence is crucial. Familiarize yourself with local healthcare providers, facilities, and their reputations. Seek recommendations from ex-pat communities or local resources to find trusted medical professionals who can cater to your needs. Learn about the local processes for accessing healthcare, such as registering with a primary care physician or understanding how to schedule appointments.

Having enough of your medications is another concern for seniors living abroad. Before relocating, consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you have an ample stock of necessary medicines. 

It is recommended to carry a copy of your prescriptions and medical records, including details of any chronic conditions or allergies, as this will be useful when consulting with healthcare providers in your new country. Research the availability of medications abroad, as brand names and drug availability may vary from what you are accustomed to in the United States. 

Making Medicare Simple with The Medicare Family

There are many decisions to be made about your Medicare coverage, and it can be challenging to navigate. The good news is that you do not need to do it alone. For over 40 years, The Medicare Family has helped seniors across the country to be able to make informed decisions about their Medicare coverage. With our expertise and personalized guidance, we can assist you in understanding the different Medicare options available and help you choose the plan that best suits your needs.

Book a call today to learn more.

Sylvia Gordon, aka Medicare Mama®, is an expert on all things Medicare and Social Security. She is the 2nd Generation here at The Medicare Family and has served on the advisory boards of major insurance companies like UnitedHealthcare®, Cigna, and Anthem. In her free time, she can be found taking care of her animals (dogs, goats, peacocks, chickens), and reading a good book. Learn More.
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