A Critical Emergency Solution for Expat Snowbirds Making it Work with Medicare Advantage & Supplements
Medicare brings the opportunity to retire, free from the limitations and costs of employer-sponsored healthcare – and spend some time traveling and/or living abroad for a while! While original Medicare does not provide any healthcare coverage outside the US, certain Medicare Advantage plans and Supplement Plans (plans D, G, F, M and N) can provide terrific indemnity-style coverage for medical emergencies outside the US. These can be transformative for securing low-cost emergency healthcare insurance coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.
A couple of words of caution – first, these are all indemnity plans. This means you pay upfront, and then get reimbursed from your carrier. Depending on the nature of the emergency and the location, it can add up to a lot of money. Second, these are for medical emergency care (and in some cases urgent care) and only provide coverage until you are stable – and no longer in a medical emergency. For both reasons, getting home to continue care is a vital consideration – both for cost and quality of care. That is where pre-paid medevac coverage comes in.
|Medicare Type Coverage||Plan Type||Additional Cost for Emergency Coverage||Considerations|
|Supplements D, G, F, M, N||All policies offer the same||$0||Cover emergencies outside home market (US) for trips up to 60 days. Coverage is 80% of claim (20%co-insurance) with lifetime cap of $50,000.|
|Advantage Plans with travel up to 6 months||Certain Medicare Advantage Plans||$0||Coverage for emergencies worldwide. Limited to trips up to 6 months. Terms vary according to plan and carrier.|
|Advantage Plans with travel up to 12 months||Certain Medicare Advantage Plans||$0||Coverage for emergencies worldwide. Limited to trips up to 12 months. Terms vary according to plan and carrier.|
Getting home once you are stabilized is critical and can be extraordinarily expensive without the right coverage. The best programs are typically structured as membership programs rather than as insurance – in part because most insurance companies will only move you if it’s deemed “medically necessary”. These medevac membership programs also make all the arrangements themselves, rather than through third parties. This is a vital benefit – you want a solution to get home if you are sick or hurt – not a referral to another bunch of people to call, hoping that they can fix your problem.
An international transport from further locations, like Japan or Africa, can run $200,000 plus. These are budget-busting numbers, and there is no recourse to Medicare for any of these medevac expenses.
It’s important to choose a program that will provide complete hospital-to-hospital transfer with no “acceptable facility” or “medical necessity” clauses. If you are in a hospital abroad, you want air transport to your hospital at home, with the only limitation being if you are healthy enough to stand the flight without sustaining further injury to your health.
The best medevac programs operate with no requirements for co-pays or co-insurance. This means that you go home without having to reach into your pocket. They handle all the payments themselves, and you never see a claim for or a bill. The savings relative to one-off medical evacuation is enormous – I have seen people pay over $40,000 for emergency flights home from Mexico in the last year. An international transport from further locations, like Japan or Africa, can run $200,000 plus. These are budget-busting numbers, and there is no recourse to Medicare for any of these medevac expenses. I’d rather have a medevac membership, and pay $0!
For retirees under the age of 75, the cost of these programs ranges from a few hundred dollars up to just over $1,000 per year depending on the type of coverage and number of years of coverage purchased. My wife and I started with a medevac program shortly after one our best friends had a terrible problem getting home after a bike accident while on a river cruise in Europe. He was sick, hurt and both he and his wife were trapped for weeks, unable to get home – a terrible situation. Since we started our company two years ago, we have seen a steady stream of people who wished that they had a medevac membership. It, combined with certain Medicare Advantage plans or supplements, can be a great solution for very low-cost/high-quality emergency medical coverage while outside the US.