You may not know it yet but, if you are over age 65, you have been given specific permission and encouragement to enjoy yourself especially this month. May is “Older Americans Month” and the theme this year is “Never Too Old To Play!”
Janice Jacobs, assistant secretary for consular affairs, the U.S. agency charged with care for our citizens overseas, noted in a recent website posting, www.travel.state.gov/news/news_5448.html, that this year’s theme, “Never Too Old To Play!” puts a “spotlight on the important role older adults play in sharing their experience, wisdom and understanding, and passing on that knowledge to other generations in a variety of significant ways.
“International travel is increasingly one of the more popular ways that older Americans ‘play’ as they visit new places and learn about new cultures.” She further noted that “the experiences older Americans share with their families and friends upon return further enrich all generations in our communities.”
So, if you are in the mood for travel, either within the U.S. or internationally, questions arise concerning what you need to know. While Social Security benefits, for instance, follow Americans to other countries, basic Medicare likely generally will not and seniors might need to be prepared for alternate arrangements.
Here are some things to know.
On Medicare. If you have original Medicare either alone or with a Medigap (Medicare supplement), you can travel anywhere in the U.S. and its territories and get the medical care you need from doctors and hospitals. This includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Except for some rare cases of inpatient hospital services in Canada or Mexico, traditional basic Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan might not cover care while you travel in the United States unless you need emergency or urgent care. This needs to be checked with the individual plan before traveling.
If your plan does allow you to see providers that are outside your network or area, you might need to follow additional rules such as rules regarding prior authorization (except for emergencies) and there may be additional costs that do not apply to treatment at home.
The rare cases when Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital services in Canada or Mexico relate to three possibilities.
One is that you live in the U.S. near a foreign hospital and need emergency or non-emergency treatment and the foreign hospital is closer or easier to get to from home than the nearest U.S. hospital.
Second, if you are in the U.S. when you have a medical emergency and the hospital in Mexico or Canada is closer than the nearest U.S. available hospital