Retirees eager to travel should check their Medicare coverage before hitting the road

With COVID Travel Restrictions easing up around the world in the coming weeks, the eager to travel senior population should check their Medicare coverage before hitting the road

For COVID-vaccinated individuals in the 65-and-over crowd, hitting the road (or sky) may become more alluring than it’s been in a very long time.

Be sure to understand whether your Medicare plan will travel with you. 

While coverage when you’re away from home depends partly on your destination, it also hinges on the specifics of your Medicare plan. Whether you receive routine or emergency care can play a part.

In other words, it is worth knowing what to expect from your plan benefits so there are no surprises. 

What to know

Basic, or original Medicare consists of Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (outpatient care). Individuals who choose to stick with that coverage — instead of going with an Advantage Plan — typically pair it with a stand-alone prescription-drug plan (Part D).

If this is your situation, coverage while traveling in the U.S. and its territories is straightforward: You can go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare (most do), whether for routine care or an emergency. It’s when you venture beyond U.S. borders that things get trickier.

If you travel outside the U.S., Medicare does not cover you except in extremely limited or rare circumstances. 

Those exceptions include when you’re on a cruise ship, and if you get the care while the ship is in U.S. territorial waters — or you’re traveling from state to state but the closest hospital to treat you in a foreign country is closer to your residence then the nearest available U.S. hospital (i.e., you’re in Canada while heading to Alaska from the 48 contiguous states).

Medicare Supplemental Policies

Some Medigap policies provide coverage for travel abroad. A member pays a $250 deductible and 20% of the cost of the medical treatment received, up to a lifetime maximum of $50,000. Be aware that this coverage applies to medically necessary emergency care and there may be other restrictions, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Be aware that amid the ongoing pandemic, the State Department has numerous advisories in effect for foreign travel. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requiring all air passengers — including citizens — heading for the U.S. (or returning to it) to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or proof of recently recovering from the virus.

Advantage Plans

For beneficiaries who get their Medicare benefits — Parts A, B and typically D — through an Advantage Plan, it is worth checking to see if you get any coverage for worldwide emergencies or urgently needed services while abroad. 

Plan coverage for worldwide services can vary from $25,000 per year to an unlimited benefit and can be found in your plans explanation of coverage (EOC).

It is also possible that your Advantage Plan will disenroll you if you remain outside of their service area for a certain length of time (typically six months) and Medicare drug plans don’t cover prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S. 

It is vital to know how your Medicare plan will cover you while vacationing so you can determine if you want to purchase travel medical insurance for those overseas trips. 

Travel Medical Insurance policies from GeoBlue are affordably designed to pick up where your primary domestic health plan leaves off.