For many retirees, traveling is the dream. For smart retirees, considering your Medicare options beforehand should be the reality. When it comes to Medicare and traveling, it is prudent to know where you stand and what you’ll need when it comes to healthcare options, wherever you may be.
The first thing one should take into consideration when looking into Medicare options is the destination. Ultimately, the destination will determine which Medicare plan will meet your needs, based on coverage and cost. Whether you are traveling domestically or abroad, you have options.
Original Medicare, also known as Traditional Medicare, consists of two parts. Part A, which covers hospital services and Part B, which covers doctor’s visits and other medical services. Original Medicare provides coverage in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. So long as a doctor or hospital accepts Medicare, with this plan, you will have coverage everywhere in the United States. However, health care that you receive in foreign countries is not covered, nor are prescription drugs you buy outside of the U.S. In the case of cruises, which are a popular destination for retirees, Medicare doesn’t cover health care services if the ship is more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port.
There are three exceptions to this plan that would enable coverage to the policy holder, in emergency situations only, and they are:
- If you are traveling to or from Alaska and need emergency medical services in Canada.
- If you are in the U.S. but the nearest hospital in an emergency is a foreign hospital.
- If you live in the U.S. and a foreign hospital is closer to you than the nearest U.S. hospital for your specific medical condition.
Another option is Medicare Advantage (Part C), though this plan is more restricted so you may pay a higher fee or not be covered at all. This is because Medicare Advantage, which are usually HMOs or PPOs, require use of in-network doctors and hospitals. It is always a good idea to check the service area before enrolling.
For the international travelers, some Medigap policies provide limited coverage abroad. Medigap plans are supplemental to Part A or B Medicare policies, and you can choose from Medigap plans C, D, F, G, M, and N depending on what type of coverage you need. The benefit of Medigap insurance applies only during the first 60 days of a trip, and will cover 80 percent of emergency health care outside the country, with a $250 deductible to be satisfied first.
For more information on which type of Medicare coverage best suits your individual needs, please call the Medicare helpline, 800-633-4227; or the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), 800-677-1116; or visit medicare.gov.