A twisted ankle. An upset stomach. The flu. Anything can happen when you travel abroad.
The good news is that Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans can help cover emergency medical expenses overseas. This can help you save time and money.
"Having supplemental insurance is always a good option when traveling internationally," says Ty Wooldridge, president and CEO of Aetna Senior Supplemental Insurance. "My parents are in their eighties and still travel the world. It gives me a lot of comfort knowing that they're covered with a Medicare Supplement plan from Aetna."
If you've got international travel plans for retirement, it's wise to plan ahead and research supplemental coverage options.
Option 1: Add a Medicare Supplement plan (also known as Medigap)
There are six Medigap plan options (C, D, F, G, M, and N). They provide coverage for medical emergencies outside of the United States — as long as medical care starts within 60 days of leaving the United States.
With a Medigap plan that covers foreign travel, you pay a $250 deductible plus 20 percent coinsurance, and there's a lifetime benefit maximum of $50,000.
Option 2: Sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan
Some Medicare Advantage plans cover medical emergencies overseas. If you're considering Medicare Advantage and are planning to travel outside the United States, check with the insurance company to see if they cover emergency care outside the United States. You can contact your plan for more information.
It's important to know that Medicare Advantage plans and Medigap plans cannot be used together. You can choose one or the other depending on your health care needs.
Know before you go
Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) generally doesn't cover treatment outside the United States and its territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands). Fortunately, some Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage overseas for emergency medical visits.
It's also important to know that Medicare prescription drug plans (Part D) don't cover outpatient medicines purchased outside the United States. If you're taking medicines to manage a condition, it's critical to take them with you. Luggage can get lost, so pack your medicines in a carry-on bag. And pack extra in case there are unexpected flight delays or cancellations.
Be proactive and get your vaccines beforehand
In tropical countries, preventive medications are critical. You can check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization for recommendations regarding all the countries you intend to visit. Then book a visit with your doctor to review your immunization record and get any specialized shots you need.
Safe and happy travels!