For many people, having the freedom and time to travel is one of the most exciting aspects of retirement. You may have been daydreaming about visiting Italy, Ireland, Indonesia, or Idaho for years. It is less likely, however, that you’ve thought much about whether your healthcare coverage will follow you abroad.
While Original Medicare will typically pay for any medical costs incurred during a domestic vacation to another state or U.S. territory, health care costs accrued abroad are only covered in very specific (and very rare) situations.
If international travel is on your retirement to-do list, some coverage options will protect you while you’re abroad. The best choice for you will depend on a few considerations. Your age, the frequency of your excursions abroad, and the specific countries you plan to visit can impact your decision.
Planning to become a regular jetsetter?
If travel is a top priority in your retirement plans, you may want to consider purchasing a Medicare Supplement (or “Medigap”) plan. While there are multiple Medigap plan types available, there are six plans that cover medical emergencies outside of the U.S., as long as they occur within 60 days of your departure. You can learn more about the benefits offered under the various Medigap plans available here
Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N all include some form of healthcare coverage abroad. Taking your other priorities into account, compare the pricing and benefits offered by the Medigap plans available in your area. If you do decide to go this route, you should be aware that these plans come with a lifetime benefit maximum of $50,000 for foreign emergencies. You will also be responsible for paying a deductible of $250 when receiving medical care abroad. This deductible is separate from your regular deductible under Medicare. In addition to this, you will be responsible for 20 percent coinsurance on the services rendered.
What if I have a Medicare Advantage plan?
Unfortunately, Medigap plans — and the foreign coverage that many offer — are only compatible with Original Medicare (Parts A & B). This means that you will not be able to purchase a Medigap plan if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. However, some Medicare Advantage plans do offer coverage for medical emergencies in foreign countries. Confirm that your Part C plan includes this coverage before you put your down payment on that condo in Tahiti!
Have just a couple big trips in mind?
If you’re only planning to leave the U.S. once or twice throughout your retirement, paying a monthly premium for a Medigap policy, or choosing a more expensive Part C plan that provides coverage for foreign medical emergencies, may not make the most sense for your wallet.
Instead, you may consider purchasing a travel medical insurance plan from a private company directly before taking a big trip. Most of these plans limit the maximum amount of coverage available to people over 70 to $25,000. If you are considering this option, it may be beneficial to take your international trips sooner rather than later.