Medicare is a program primarily designed for services provided to beneficiaries in the borders of the US, but it is available for emergent care coverage to purchasers of certain Medicare Supplement Plans and to certain Medicare Advantage participants. Frequently overlooked are the benefits that Medicare offers to folks traveling or with temporary residence outside the US. This is a key benefit for me personally, as we are looking forward to travelling in retirement – like biking in the below photo.
1. Traveler Coverage Outside of the U.S.
Medicare Supplement Plans D, G, M and N all provide up to $50,000 (lifetime benefit) of coverage to travelers outside the US on an indemnity basis, paying 80% of valid claims. This coverage is for emergency care coverage and will not apply for non-emergent services. These claims must be paid for first, and then claims presented back in the US to the Plan provider. While $50,000 may not sound like much, it is a lot in most countries and should cover medical expenses for most emergencies until you can get back into the US. This is really travel insurance, intended for trips up to 12 weeks in length.
2. Medicare Advantage Plans provide similar coverage for foreign travel
Many Medicare Advantage Plans provide similar coverage for foreign travel but are typically less restrictive regarding the length of time outside the US. The maximum amount of time outside the US is 6 months for Part C Plans and offers more flexibility for people who may spend extended periods of time outside the US. It is important to note that more than 6 months away from home can result in complete loss of coverage under Part C, so paying attention to the time abroad is important. Like coverage through Supplement plans, it typically provides for a maximum $50,000 lifetime benefit. This is a great alternative for folks who spend a lot of time at vacation homes or family outside the US.
3. Returning Home After an Accident or Emergent Illness
You will need to get home after an accident or emergent illness – and this is not covered by Medicare. We strongly suggest that if you need to get back to the US for care – get emergency evacuation insurance. It is not terribly expensive, and well worth it if you need to get home!