Retirement can mean newfound freedom, especially if you like to travel. If you are dreaming of winters in Florida or extended trips to Europe, you’ll want to choose a Medicare plan that keeps you covered while you’re away from home.
If you hope to travel at all, it’s important to consider both a plan’s premium and the extended coverage it will provide. “Look at the cost, but also look at what you are getting for that premium,” says Terry Meshanko, a Licensed Medicare Advisor with Highmark. “Having access to care, when you need it and where you need it, provides a lot of assurance for travelers.”
For coverage wherever retirement takes you, Meshanko offers the following advice for traveling with Medicare:
Picture your retirement years. Will you spend the winter months somewhere warm? Are your kids living in another state or country? Do you long to see the world?
“You want to look at all aspects of travel and figure out what is important to you,” Meshanko says. Original Medicare provides coverage across the United States. For additional benefits, Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigap) and Medicare Advantage offer travel-friendly plans. “Look at all the available plans when you are first enrolling in Medicare.” Then enlist an insurance agent to pinpoint the best plan for your travel style.
“Once you’ve enrolled, switching between Medigap plans can be challenging. And while Medicare Advantage plans have flexibility, they might not offer the right coverage for you,” Meshanko says. With so many options to consider, you’ll want to make the best choice when you first enroll.
If you are planning to travel within the U.S., you have options when it comes to your Medicare coverage. For a higher premium, Medigap plans cover you at any provider accepting Medicare no matter how long you travel.
Some Medicare Advantage plans offer travel options at a lower premium. Plans like Highmark’s Freedom Blue PPO and Community Blue PPO offer in-network care for non-emergencies, even when you are away from home. However, Medicare guidelines limit travel to six months a year. A Medigap plan might be a better choice if you’ll be away from your base network more than half the year.
If you’ll be traveling abroad often or for long periods of time, there are Medicare supplemental plans with foreign travel coverage. “You’ll still need to submit those claims to your insurance company,” Meshanko says. “But you will have foreign travel benefits and coverage.”
To access your prescriptions while traveling around the country, use a national pharmacy chain covered by your plan. You can refill your prescriptions, no matter where you are, as long as that pharmacy chain is nearby.
Planning to travel abroad for more than a month? You’ll need to plan ahead for your prescriptions. “Let your insurance company know that you’ll be gone,” Meshanko says. “Request an emergency supply of medicine to fill next month’s prescriptions before you go.”
Original Medicare rarely covers emergency care when traveling outside of the United States. With a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan, you will have emergency and urgently-needed care worldwide. However, foreign hospitals are not required to file Medicare claims. You will need to submit an itemized bill to your insurance company upon your return.
“If you have an emergency in a foreign country, call your insurance company as soon as you can,” Meshanko says. “They will walk you through the process and tell you what you’ll need to file the claim later.”