3 Costly Medicare Assumptions
1. Medicare is free.
2. Medicare covers Everything.
3. Medicare covers you anywhere in the world.
Let’s be Clear!
1. Medicare is not free. There are premiums and/or deductibles for each Part of Medicare.
2. Medicare does not cover everything. Most major medical services require you pay 20% in coinsurance, and some services are not covered at all.
3. When it comes to health care received outside the United States, Medicare is less reliable. If you decide to make your retirement home abroad, you will need another source of insurance to supplement your Medicare policy or be prepared to pay out-of-pocket for services you receive.
Does Medigap Pay for Care Overseas?
You may not be able to utilize your Medicare benefits when receiving care in a foreign hospital, but if you have Medigap, a supplemental policy from a private insurer, you may have emergency foreign health benefits. Standard Medigap plans do not provide coverage for routine care overseas.
What About Medicare Advantage Plans?
Medicare Advantage Plans may offer some healthcare coverage in foreign countries because they are private as opposed to government plans, but all the provisions are different so you will need to check what is covered and what isn’t with your particular policy.
Many individuals purchase travel insurance with the belief a medical emergency will be covered, but those plans vary widely and generally don’t offer any kind of substantial coverage. Such plans are more focused on reimbursing travel expenses as opposed to healthcare coverage.
Health Insurance for Permanent Overseas Residents
If you choose to reside abroad for any length of time, there are many companies that provide insurance for expatriates worldwide for example Global Health Insurance, CignaGlobal, Health Care International. Many countries also offer insurance policies you can purchase while a resident or may require you to participate in their local health insurance system.
The Truth Is
Medicare Provides Coverage if you are in the United States or one of its territories—Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, The Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa—or under one of these circumstances:
- You are in the United States and have a medical emergency but a foreign hospital is closer than one in the United States. That would include incidents such as if you are in the United States, but on the border of Mexico, and have an accident.
- A foreign hospital is closer to your United States home than a facility in the states. Again, you’d need to be on the border, but in the US without a close local hospital.
- You are traveling to Alaska from the 48 contiguous states via Canada and have a medical emergency en route.
- You require medical attention and are on a cruise ship, no more than six hours away from a United States hospital.
If you are caught without insurance, healthcare in almost any country other than the United States, is remarkably inexpensive. Recently an infant, six weeks old, racked up a $3,600 bill after a week stay in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit in Singapore, and a woman spent 12 days in a hospital in Panama for $17,600. You may have to use your credit card, but the overall total might be less than the 20% you’d be responsible for in the United States with Medicare.
Medicare doesn’t cover foreign-based healthcare. You may use Medigap or Medicare Advantage plans for travel emergencies, but you’ll need to work with your insurance provider, so you know if you are actually covered.
For long-term coverage you will need to purchase an international policy, a national or local policy in the country you choose to live, or pay out-of-pocket.
Fortunately, there are several alternatives to Medicare when traveling abroad. You can purchase either short-term or long-term policies to ensure you get the care you need and travel worry-free.