When it comes to planning a retirement nest egg, saving for travel is a priority for many Americans. There is no better time than your years in retirement to travel and enjoy the world’s cultures and scenic destinations.
Although traveling in retirement should be stress-free, that’s not necessarily the case for seniors on Medicare. Understanding Medicare and all its rules, limitations and regulations are complicated for a lot of seniors. Travel is one of the areas of Medicare that comes with limitations that leaves many retirees scratching their heads with questions about coverage.
Here are the basics that every Medicare beneficiary should know about their Medicare coverage and travel.
Normally, Original Medicare will not provide coverage for care received outside of the United States. However, there are a few exceptions. If you are enrolled in Original Medicare and want to reap the full benefits of your Medicare coverage, you can travel anywhere within America and its territories. This includes Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and all other U.S. territories. Not to mention, there are additional, yet limited, benefits available such as medical care on U.S. waters while traveling via cruise ship or emergency care that takes place on the way to the U.S. and the closest hospital is in another country.
When you travel domestically, Medicare covers you well, but internationally, not so much. Your Part A and Part B benefits will provide coverage if you see a doctor within the U.S. that accepts Medicare. This applies if you have Original Medicare in addition to a Medigap plan for secondary coverage. Since there are no network restrictions under Medigap plans, you can see any healthcare provider who accepts Medicare. If the provider accepts Medicare, they legally must accept your Medigap plan too, regardless of the carrier you’re enrolled with.
Since Medigap plans don’t have doctor networks, you can see any doctor that accepts Medicare within the United States. However, depending on where you travel, your coverage depends on the specific Medigap plan you have.
For instance, in 2019, six of the ten Medigap plans offer a foreign travel emergency benefit – the most popular being Medigap Plan G. When you meet the $250 annual deductible, you can then access the travel benefit under this plan. After the deductible is paid, the Medigap plan will cover 80 percent of your emergency medical costs.
It’s important to keep in mind that certain limitations still exist under Medigap plans with travel benefits. Your Medigap plan will only pay for emergencies during the first 60 days that you are out of the country. Benefits are also limited to a lifetime benefit of $50,000, and that can accumulate quickly.
Several Medicare Advantage plans have added benefits such as global coverage in the event of an emergency. In many cases, foreign hospitals will bill your Advantage plan on your behalf, so it’s always a good idea to add your Medicare Advantage card to your packing list when you travel.
Unfortunately, there may be some occasions when foreign healthcare providers won’t bill your carrier on your behalf. If this does happen to you while traveling, keep all receipts for your care. When you arrive back home, your insurance agent can assist in submitting your receipts to the Medicare Advantage provider for reimbursement.
Keep in mind that benefits received from a Medicare Advantage plan are completely separate from Original Medicare.; your benefits are regulated by a private insurance carrier rather than Original Medicare. Since Medicare Advantage plans are regulated by private insurance companies, these plans can provide additional benefits that Medigap plans cannot such as emergency coverage while traveling internationally.