Thousands of baby boomers are entering retirement every day. This is an exciting time for them, as many of them will start to mark off their most desired vacation spots from their travel bucket list. However, traveling overseas can be tricky when it comes to health insurance.
Most baby boomers in the USA are enrolled in Medicare, the federal government’s health program for seniors. Medicare offers substantial coverage here in the United States. However, when baby boomers start traveling overseas, their health coverage through Medicare is extremely limited.
If you’re a baby boomer planning to travel overseas, continue reading to see how Medicare protects you during your travels, and what you should consider before you head overseas.
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Original Medicare and Medigap coverage while traveling overseas
Original Medicare includes Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B. You enroll in each of these parts online or at the Social Security office. These two parts provide you with your basic medical coverage, such as hospital stays, doctor visits, lab work, blood transfusions, durable medical equipment, and much more.
The great thing about Original Medicare is that there is no provider network you have to use. Under Original Medicare, you can see any doctor in the United States who accepts Medicare. However, as soon as you set foot out of the country, most of your coverage is lost, if not all.
Original Medicare only covers you outside of the country in emergency situations. Also, Original Medicare only covers you in emergency situations under very specific circumstances. For example, if you are traveling to or from Alaska from or to the lower United States, and you require emergency medical treatment, then Original Medicare will cover your care at a Canadian hospital if it’s the closest.
Another way Original Medicare will cover you outside of the United States is if you’re traveling along either border and you suddenly need emergency medical care, and a Canadian or Mexican hospital is closer than an American hospital. The other way Original Medicare will cover your medical care at a foreign hospital is if your home in the United States is closer to a foreign hospital than an American one. In this case, Medicare may cover your care at the foreign hospital, even if it isn’t an emergency.
As you can see, all of these circumstances involve traveling throughout North America, not overseas. If you’re traveling overseas, outside of North America, then Original Medicare will not cover your medical needs, emergency related or not, under any circumstances.
Medigap coverage while traveling overseas
A Medigap plan generally only covers you if Original Medicare first covers you. In simple terms, if Original Medicare denies a claim, then so will your Medigap plan. However, traveling overseas is a different story.
Some Medigap plans, such as Plan C, Plan D, Plan F, Plan G, Plan M, and Plan N, cover foreign travel emergencies. This extra benefit allows you to travel overseas, knowing that you are partially covered in the case of an emergency.
If your Medigap plan has this benefit, then you will be covered at 80% if a foreign travel emergency occurs within the first 60 days while you’re traveling overseas. However, there is an annual deductible of $250. Also, this benefit has a $50,000-lifetime maximum, meaning once the Medigap plan has spent $50,000 on foreign travel emergencies, this benefit is gone.
Medicare Advantage coverage while traveling overseas
Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance carriers and can be used to replace your Original Medicare. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’re agreeing to go by the carrier’s rules rather than Original Medicare’s rules. However, Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover you as well as Original Medicare does, meaning your Medicare Advantage plan can’t have fewer benefits than Original Medicare.
With that said, Medicare Advantage plans will generally cover you in the same circumstances listed above involving travels throughout North America. However, Medicare Advantage plans are allowed to offer additional benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover, such as foreign overseas travel emergency coverage.
While every Medicare Advantage plan is different, most of them include foreign travel emergency coverage. But because each carrier gets to decide the copays and coinsurance for each of its plan’s benefits, the costs can vary for this benefit from plan to plan. One plan may offer this benefit for an $80 copay, while another will offer it for a $100 copay. The restrictions on this benefit will also vary by plan.
Short-Term travel insurance
As you can see, you are fairly limited to the type of Medicare coverage you have when traveling overseas. Baby boomers should consider purchasing a short-term travel insurance policy if they plan to travel overseas. These plans usually offer a much wider array of benefits outside of the country. You shouldn’t rely on Medicare as your health coverage but always remember to take your vitamins when traveling overseas.