Medicare Overseas

Avoiding This Common International Travel Mistake Could Save You Thousands

Medicare Overseas

When you’re planning a long-dreamed-of vacation abroad, insurance may the last thing on your mind. After all, you have Medicare or group coverage, right? In fact, you may not be covered at all once you’re outside the country, and the time it takes to research and buy travel health insurance could mean the difference between peace of mind and a huge bill for uninsured medical care abroad if you get sick or injured. Here’s what you need to know before you get the next stamp on your passport.

Uncovered costs can add up fast

If you’re in good health, you might wonder if you can skate by without coverage. But if you catch the flu, trip and fall, or are hurt in an auto accident while you’re abroad, you could be out of pocket thousands of dollars – even more if you need medical transport back to the US.

Find out what coverage you already have

Original Medicare and many other plans don’t cover most medical care abroad. If that’s news to you, you’re not alone; many travelers assume they’re covered and don’t bother to check. “Our study revealed that 27% of travelers do not know whether their health insurance covers them out of the country,” said Jim Grace, CEO of travel insurance comparison company InsureMyTrip.

Contact your insurer and find out what, if anything, is covered while you’re out of the country. In general:

  • If you have an employer group plan or Medigap, you may have coverage.
  • If you have Original Medicare, the guide to Medicare coverage abroad explains the narrow set of circumstances under which care abroad is covered. The guide also outlines the Medigap programs that offer international coverage.
  • If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be in luck. Some of these plans cover urgent and emergency care internationally, said Doug Bennett Jr., spokesman for health insurer Anthem, which offers travel health policies through its affiliate companies.

Even if you have international coverage, you may want a supplemental policy if overseas costs are covered at the out-of-network rate or have low coverage limits.

Find the right health plan for your travel plans

There are four general categories of travel insurance. What you choose will depend on how often you travel, how long you’ll be out of the US, your budget, and any specific health needs:

  • Comprehensive travel policies typically include some travel health coverage along with baggage-loss and trip cancellation coverage. For travelers with some existing coverage and short-term travel plans, this may be enough.
  • Travel medical policies offer primary or supplementary coverage while you’re abroad, usually for up to 6 months at a time. Most include emergency-care and medical-evacuation coverage. This coverage is recommended for travelers whose US-based policies cover little or no international health expenses.
  • Travel major medical coverage protects travelers who go abroad for more than 6 months at a time. Coverage usually includes checkups as well as emergency care and medical evacuation. Depending on the provider, you may have a range of coverage and copay options similar to a US-based PPO, and you may be able to add travel dental coverage.
  • Multi-Trip travel medical covers travelers over the course of several excursions abroad. Some companies offer plans tailored to senior travelers, such as Golden Rule’s International Medical Group GlobeHopper Senior that covers multiple trips of up to 30 days each over the course of a year.

Whatever policy you choose, be sure you understand the time and money limits on your coverage, know what conditions or activities are excluded, and purchase any additional riders you need. Then pack your bags and get ready to enjoy extra peace of mind on your next getaway.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

1 Comment

  1. Medigap March 29, 2016 Reply

    Great article, keep it up!

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