Will my healthcare coverage follow me abroad?

For many people, having the freedom and time to travel is one of the most exciting aspects of retirement. While you may have been daydreaming about visiting Italy, Ireland, Indonesia, or Idaho  for years, it is less likely that you’ve dedicated as much thought to whether or not your health insurance coverage will follow you to your destination of choice.

While Original Medicare will typically pay for any medical costs incurred during a domestic vacation to another state or U.S. territory, health care costs accrued abroad are only covered in very specific (and very rare) situations.

If international travel is on your retirement to-do list, there are some options for obtaining healthcare coverage that will protect you while you’re out and about, putting that passport to use. The best choice for you will depend on a few considerations, such as your age, the frequency of your excursions abroad, and the specific countries you plan to add to your travel itinerary.

Planning to become a regular jetsetter?

If travel is a top priority in your retirement plans, and you know you’ll be spending a lot of time on foreign soil, you may want to consider purchasing a Medicare Supplement (or “Medigap”) plan. While there are multiple Medigap plan types available, there are six plans that cover medical emergencies outside of the U.S., as long as they occur within 60 days of your departure. You can learn more about the benefits offered under the various Medigap plans available here

Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N all include some form of healthcare coverage abroad. Taking your other priorities into account, compare the pricing and benefits offered by the Medigap plans available in your area. If you do decide to go this route, you should be aware that these plans come with a lifetime benefit maximum of $50,000 for foreign emergencies, and that you will be responsible for paying a deductible of $250 when receiving medical care abroad (which is separate from your regular deductible under Medicare). In addition to this deductible, you will be responsible for 20 percent coinsurance on the services rendered.

What if I have a Medicare Advantage plan?

Unfortunately, Medigap plans — and the foreign coverage that many offer — are only compatible with Original Medicare (Parts A & B). This means that you will not be able to purchase a Medigap plan if you have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan. However, some Medicare Advantage plans do offer coverage for medical emergencies in foreign countries. Just make sure to confirm whether or not your Part C plan includes this coverage before you put your down payment on that condo in Tahiti!

Curious to see Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans in your area? 

Have just a couple big trips in mind?

If you’re only planning to leave the U.S. once or twice throughout your retirement years, paying a monthly premium for a Medigap policy, or choosing a more expensive Part C plan that provides coverage for foreign medical emergencies, may not make the most sense for your wallet.

Instead, you may consider purchasing a travel medical insurance plan from a private company directly before taking a big trip. Most of these plans limit the maximum amount of coverage available to people over 70 to $25,000, so if you are considering this option, it may be beneficial to take your international trips sooner rather than later.

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