Medicare and Traveling Abroad
If you decide to retire in a foreign country outside the US or if you would like to spend most of your time traveling overseas, you will not take your Medicare plan with you. So if you are a retiree and your wish is to live outside the US, partly due to health problems but mostly to stretch out your savings, you should know that health costs outside the US are not covered by this health insurance plan.
This should not, however, throw a damper on your retirement or holiday plans because there are exceptional circumstances under which a US citizen traveling or living abroad can still access insured health facilities and care. It takes a lot of planning to qualify for the health care benefits provided by the coverage. Let’s take a look at what you can do to benefit from the medicare plan if you are traveling or living elsewhere other than within the US.
While you are staying abroad, you cannot use the plan to foot the bill from your medical expenses. But there are two options you can decide to use. The first one is to go without any health coverage plan but that is risky. That leaves you with the second option, which is to get a government-sponsored health plan into which you can enroll by buying private insurance coverage. Many countries have strong national health coverage systems which you can enroll into and qualify for the same level of coverage like the nationals of that country do.
And depending on where you wish to spend your retirement period, you can search for private companies that offer health insurance plans for expatriates. This also requires careful consideration and planning because making the right choice for health insurance will determine the quality of care you can access.
For instance, you will need to have evacuation coverage if you are traveling to a remote location with poor local health facilities. In other places, the doctor services may be excellent, but you may part with extra money for every doctor visit. In such a situation, you will need coverage that includes outpatient services.
Just like overseas retirement, traveling abroad is also not covered by medicare except under some special circumstances. The US territories officially refer to the 50 states and the American Samoa, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam.
Exceptions under which you can use your coverage internationally are, if you get a medical emergency while you are traveling in the US but the nearest hospital is either in Mexico or Canada. In this case, you will be covered if you are treated in the nearest hospital. You will also be covered if you are on board a cruise and you suffer an emergency while the ship is not more than six hours away from a US port.
Alternatively, you can resort to Medigap plans that private companies offer for foreign coverage. They include supplements for C to J that provide coverage for travel emergencies. Always plan for your transportation back to the US for treatment by having an evacuation plan, and remember that the short-term insurance plans for travel will only be effective during the first two months of traveling. Before you embark on your journey, find out the list of private companies offering travel medical insurance from the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department. If a retiree living abroad chooses to come back to the US, he/she will still be covered by part A of the insurance.