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Traveling retirees check Medicare coverage to avoid costly surprises

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If you are a Medicare retiree and are tempted to travel, make sure you know if your plan can work with you.

Whether you want to travel within the United States or travel abroad, coverage at your destination depends on the specifics of your Medicare plan. The nature of your care – planned or urgent – can also play a role.

According to a recent study by personal finance website ValuePenguin, just over a quarter of Americans (28%) say they got sick or injured while on vacation. Among this group, bacterial or foodborne diseases are the most common (33%), followed by respiratory diseases (28%) and bodily injury (24%). In addition, 12% of them said they contracted Covid while on vacation.

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In other words, it pays to know what to expect from your Medicare coverage so there are no surprises if you need to see a doctor or other health care provider while away from home.

US travel made easy with Basic Medicare

Basic Medicare includes Part A (hospital coverage) and Part B (outpatient care). Beneficiaries who choose to stick to this coverage instead of an Advantage plan usually combine it with a separate prescription drug plan (Part D).

If that’s your situation, coverage while traveling in the US and its territories is pretty simple: you can go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare (most of them), whether it’s a scheduled treatment or an emergency. When you go outside of the US, things get more complicated.

Basic Medicare does not cover travel outside the United States except in limited circumstances. These exceptions include when you are on a ship in territorial waters adjacent to a country—within six hours of a U.S. port—or you are traveling from state to state but the nearest hospital for you is in another country (i.e., you are in Canada, bound for Alaska from the contiguous 48 states).

Also keep in mind that Part D plans don’t cover drugs bought outside the US, said Elizabeth Gavino, founder of Lewin & Gavino and an independent broker and general agent for Medicare plans.

“Remember to bring enough medication with you,” she said.

Medigap policy can help abroad

If you have an additional policy – also known as “Medigap” – along with the basic Medicare program, this may give you some coverage abroad.

These policies, which are generally standardized across states, offer some basic Medicare cost-sharing coverage, such as co-payments and co-insurance.

Some Medigap policies include some coverage outside of the US. Plans C, D, F, G, M and N have maximum lifetime benefits up to $50,000 with the beneficiary paying 20% ​​of the costs after the $250 deductible and you are only covered for the first 60 days of the trip.

This coverage only applies to

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