As a senior you should plan to protect your health no matter where you might venture. If you currently have Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you shouldn’t have any problems getting the care you need anywhere in the US. It’s when you decide to travel outside the US that you’ll likely encounter issues with your Medicare coverage. As a word of caution, you would be well-served to verify the scope of your insurance coverage anytime you decide to travel away from your home environment. That suggestion is applicable no matter what kind of healthcare insurance coverage you carry.
What to Know About Medicare Coverage Abroad
Once you are outside the US, you will most likely find that you are void of any type of coverage related to Medicare. The only two exceptions to this rule would include the following two circumstances:
First, if something happened to you close to a US border, they are circumstances under which Medicare would cover emergency care costs in a foreign country. As an example, let’s say you are traveling south of San Diego, California right near the border of Mexico. If you were hit with a medical emergency and the powers to be determined that taking you across the border for treatment was necessary to avoid putting your life at risk, Medicare might cover the emergency care costs.
Second, you are afforded some level of coverage if you are on a boat or ship in US territorial waters and a medical emergency befalls you. As long as you are within six hours of a US port, you could be entitled to coverage for the costs related to the medical emergency. In both of these cases, Medicare will push to have you moved back into the US for further treatment once your condition has stabilized.
About Medigap Abroad
Some seniors carry a product called Medigap. Medigap is intended to serve as a supplemental form of insurance that helps policyholders cover copays and co-insurance. Interestingly, some Medigap policies (Plans C, D, F, G, M and N) do offer coverage abroad.
Under the terms of the applicable Medigap policies, coverage abroad is available with a $250 deductible and a 20% co-insurance obligation. It’s the $50,000 lifetime cap that could cause an issue.
If someone were to encounter a serious medical condition far from home without the ability to eventually relocate back to the US for additional care, there’s a real possibility the $50,000 would be gobbled up within that one emergency. That makes the coverage abroad nonexistent for the duration of the Medigap coverage. For this very reason, it is suggested people use this benefit judiciously.
Looking for an Alternative?
Based on the understanding your Medicare/Medicare Advantage is of little to no benefit to you while you are abroad, it doesn’t release you from your responsibility to have a plan in place in case you encounter a medical emergency while traveling. As a Medicare recipient, you are either disabled or a senior. In both cases, that puts you in a high risk category for medical problems.
For that reason, you might want to consider purchasing a travel medical insurance policy. Depending on your age and current health status, you might be able to find a policy that’s both affordable and quite comprehensive.
Regardless of whether you plan to travel or not, you should make it a habit to check on your healthcare insurance coverage on a regular basis. It’s up to you to make sure everything you might need is in place when the time comes that you actually need it.