A Guest Post Prepared by Danielle Kunkle
A lot of Baby Boomers looking into their Medicare options have questions about whether their coverage will follow them as they travel outside of the United States.
When looking for insurance plans that are right for you and your budget, it’s important for you to prioritize which areas of coverage you will need the most without breaking the bank. That’s the case for all insurance – not just for Medicare. However, when budgeting for travel and Medicare insurance, it’s crucial to understand that Medicare is not free and for Boomers to know your options and how you are covered outside of the United States.
Foreign Travel and Original Medicare
For those that aren’t familiar with Original Medicare, it comes in two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A is what covers your hospital expenses in retirement and is free for U. S. citizens that have worked a minimum of ten years and paid FICA taxes.
Part B is for outpatient medical services such as doctor visits and treatments from specialists. Part B has monthly premiums that everyone must pay – most people will pay about $135/month for their Part B coverage.
If you are traveling within the United States or to any of its territories, your Medicare insurance and coverage will travel with you. However, Original Medicare will not usually cover foreign travel since the government-provided program is exclusive to Americans and the states/territories within the country.
For those that want to spend their retirement years traveling the world, there are a few options available to better cover you when you travel.
Foreign Travel and Medicare Supplements
Something important to note about Original Medicare Part B is that it only covers 80 percent of medical expenses after you have met the $185 annual Part B deductible. You are then left with covering the cost of the remaining 20 percent of your outpatient expenses.
Good news for beneficiaries- there are plans such as Medicare Supplements (also known as Medigap plans) that can help alleviate the financial responsibility of finding the funds to pay the remaining 20 percent.
When purchasing a Medigap plan, you can choose one that has some foreign travel benefits built in. As of 2019, six out of the ten Medigap plans provide a foreign travel benefit in the event of a medical emergency such as the popular Medigap Plan G.
After an annual deductible of $250 is met, the travel benefit is accessible as long as you have not been out of the country for more than 60 days. The plan will pay up to $50,000 for foreign travel emergency expenses in your lifetime. Once it has been exhausted, it will not be available on any future foreign trips.
Foreign Travel and Medicare Advantage
For Baby Boomers that have Medicare Advantage plans or are considering an Advantage plan rather than a Supplement plan, please note that your network of healthcare providers is more limited. However, since Medicare Advantage plans are regulated by private insurance companies, these plans are able to provide additional benefits that Medigap plans cannot.
All Medicare Advantage plans come with foreign travel emergency coverage worldwide. You can ask the billing office at the foreign hospital to bill your plan. If they refuse to do so, just remember to keep all of your receipts. Your insurance agent can help you with submitting them for reimbursement by your insurance provider.
Be aware that these bills will be subject to the terms and conditions of your Medicare Advantage plan, so there may be some cost-sharing that is expected of you.
There is no question about it – Medicare is a confusing concept to fully grasp. With so many parts and options available to Baby Boomer retirees, it is often overwhelming picking a plan that works with your budget and meets all your medical and lifestyle needs (such as travel).
If you are ever unsure about how much your Medicare plans will cover outside of the country or unclear about if they cover you at all, consult a professional to better help clarify the situation.
Many Baby Boomers also purchase short-term medical insurance coverage for their trips through their travel agent. Check with yours to see if this kind of extra coverage makes sense for you.