Will Medicare Cover Me If I Retire Abroad?

senior couple on bench with dog

Retirees are moving abroad for so many reasons. Many are searching for a lower cost of living, others are returning to the country where they were born. Perhaps you long for a lower stress environment, maybe somewhere you can have daily walks on the beach. On the other hand, maybe you want to retire overseas for an exciting adventure now that work can’t get in the way. In all of these situations, you should consider international health insurance for seniors.

You’re Going to Need International Health Insurance

But what about that Medicare coverage you worked so hard for and paid into all those years? The Medicare coverage you’re entitled to! Is it going to cover you in a foreign country? The disappointing truth is — no, it won’t. Medicare will not cover you in any country except the US. Medicare will pay for an ER visit in a foreign country, as long as you still reside in the US. But it will not pay for non-emergency treatment in a foreign country, and it won’t cover you if you are living in a foreign country. 

Should I Give Up My Medicare? 

My advice is no! Don’t give up your Medicare coverage. Throughout many years in this business, I have noticed a few things, and one of those is that expats like to spend their golden years having adventures and living abroad. But when it comes time for the twilight of their lives, most people like to come home and be close to family. They also want to live where they can access a more sophisticated level of medical care. Even during the golden years, our bodies start to show the effects of age. I’ve heard time and time again from expat retirees who take advantage of their ability to return to the US for medical treatment or surgeries. Remember, Medicare will cover your pre-existing conditions, no one else will. 

Should I Get a Long-Term International Health Insurance Plan? 

Yes! But don’t wait too long. There are two important factors to consider that affect the cost and availability of long-term, annually renewable plans for international health insurance. The first factor is age. The cost of a plan when you’re 62 is much less than in your 70s. Depending on the company, many insurance plans won’t even accept you if you’re over 74, and some not even over 69. Click here for more information about International Health Insurance for seniors.

If an annually renewable plan is too expensive or unavailable because of your age, don’t give up! There are other options for international health insurance, as you will see below. 

The second factor to consider is your health. When we get older, things break, old injuries resurface and new ones appear. If you made it to retirement with few health issues, then an annually renewable plan for international health insurance (also called an expat plan) might be perfect for you. The key is for you to have no pre-existing conditions.

I was talking to a man looking for insurance the other day. I asked him if he had any pre-existing conditions. He replied “no” — and then explained to me that his A-fib had been taken care of with an ablation and his prostate cancer from two years ago was all gone! He proclaimed himself in excellent health and said he now walked 5 miles a day. I congratulated him on his recovery, and his current state of health, but unfortunately, we couldn’t check the “no pre-existing conditions” box on his application. For him, an annually renewable plan just wasn’t an option. But there was still a solution. 

What If I Don’t Qualify for an Annually Renewable Plan?

If an annually renewable plan for international health insurance isn’t in the cards, because of the cost or your previous health history, there is still a great option for retirees on Medicare! It’s actually the most popular option for some. The solution is a travel medical insurance policy. A travel medical insurance plan is different from an annually renewable plan. With a travel medical plan, anything that happens to you during the coverage year becomes a pre-existing condition the following year. While this is a real problem for younger people, it’s not a problem for retirees. Remember YOU have MEDICARE, and they can’t deny you coverage because of pre-existing conditions. You can always return home to seek medical care in the US. 

What Does Travel Medical Insurance Cover?

So what is travel medical insurance good for? It’s good for anything new that might happen to you — a fall on a slippery sidewalk, a tropical illness, a car crash in Mexico, or a mountain biking accident in the Alps. Travel medical insurance is good for all sorts of things that happen after your coverage starts, it just isn’t good for anything that already happened before you signed up. It’s unlikely that a travel medical plan will pay for a hip replacement or shoulder surgery. These are conditions that took years to develop. Rarely do they happen overnight.

However, travel medical insurance will pay for a variety of things that can happen to you while living in a foreign country, or an evacuation for treatment elsewhere. It can even pay for the unthinkable “repatriation of remains” in the event of a death. Without insurance, getting remains home to be buried can cost a small fortune — $15,000 to $30,000 or more. That’s a burden that shouldn’t be left to surviving relatives. Click here for more information about Travel Medical Insurance for seniors.

A Third Option – Medical Evacuation Insurance

If you just don’t think a travel medical policy is for you, there is one last option that you should consider. Many seniors use a travel medical plan to pay the hospital bills in a foreign country, but add a stand-alone Medical Evacuation Insurance to get them home. These plans will get you from any hospital in the world back to your home hospital — back to your own doctor who knows you and accepts Medicare. With Medical Evacuation Insurance, you can get back to your family and loved ones and receive treatment and care at home. These plans are a real bargain at about $50 – $100 per year. Click here for more information about stand-alone Medical Evacuation Insurance. 

Choose a Plan That’s Right for You

In the end, you have to choose a plan that makes sense for you and your situation, and that’s within your budget. But if it were my parents living abroad, I would insist that they at least have a Medical Evacuation plan. In fact, while my parents don’t live abroad, they do travel frequently, and thankfully they follow my advice. International health insurance for seniors can be confusing. If you need advice or help selecting a plan that’s right for you, click here to contact us. We’re happy to help.

senior couple on bench with dog
senior couple on bench with dog

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