Will Medicare Cover You on Vacation?

Now that we are into the summer travel season,  it’s important to remember that, for the most part, Medicare does not cover health care outside the United States.

Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital care, including a doctor, ambulance services or dialysis outside the US in these very limited circumstances:

  • You are in the US when a medical emergency occurs, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest US hospital that can treat your condition
  • You are traveling to or from Alaska to another state through Canada, by the most direct route, when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest US hospital that can treat the emergency
  • You live in the US and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest US hospital that can treat your condtion, even if it is not an emergency

Medicare may also cover medically necessary health care on board a ship,  as long as you are within the terretorial waters adjoining US land.  Although this seems to contradict the exceptions listed above, Medicare won’t cover health care on a ship that is more than 6 hours away from a US port.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take that trip of a lifetime!

If you have Traditional Medicare and a Medigap policy, check that policy to see if it includes coverage for travel outside the US.  If you have an Advantage Plan, check to see if that plan includes foreign travel.  If not, or for more robust coverage, you can purchase a travel insurance policy that also includes health coverage.

And remember that your Medicare Part D plan won’t cover prescription drugs purchased outside the US, so make sure you fill your prescriptions  before you leave home.

Several Foundations Funding Research to Increase Understanding of Long Term Services and Supports

Readers of ths Blog are probably aware that Medicare does not cover most of the long term care that seniors need, and Medicaid only covers those services for individuals with low incomes and minimal assets.   Private Long Term Care Insurance may help, but premiums are increasingly expensive, and people may not be aware that they will need assistance until it is too late to qualify for the coverage.

Foundations whose mission is to improve access to healthcare are increasingly aware that it is difficult for seniors and their families to identify the services that might be available to meet their needs, even when cost is not a factor.

The mission of the Donaghue Foundation (www.donague.org) is to make grants to support medical research with a practical benefit. This summer, they plan to award 2-year grants to up to 6 projects intended to collaborate with existing agencies, such as an Area Agency on Aging, to identify programs and services that can improve the qualify of life and care for the elderly population in nursing homes or other care facilities.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation (www.hjweinbergfoundation.org) made a grant in excess of $1 million to Johns Hopkins-Bayview Medical Center to provide support to family caregivers.  Their “Called to Care” program is intended to help prepare and support individuals who are caring for loved ones, with services such as an informational podcast series, and booklet and partnerships with local agencies.

These studies are a  good start at identifying what services do the best job of improving the qualify of life for this population, and disseminating the information to the people who need it.

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Organizing a Life

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The Cost of Medicare

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New White House Hotline for Veterans

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Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions for 2018

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Veterans May Be at Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

A group called Veterans Against Alzheimers recently released a report indicating that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and even brain injuries that appear to be relatively minor when they occur are linked to a higher risk of … [Continue reading]

Social Security Announces Cost-of-Living Increases for 2018

The Social Security Administration has announced that SSI, SSDI and Social Security Retirement benefits will increase by 2% for 2018.  This is the largest increase since 2012. Last year's increase was less than 1%, and some years had no … [Continue reading]

When Can you Expect Your VA Benefits?

The Veterans Benefits Administration recently sent a reminder about when recipients can expect to recieve their VA cash benefits, including disability compensation, pension, survivor's benefits and education benefits. These benefits are deposited … [Continue reading]

Court Approves Class for Lawsuit About Medicare Observation Status

Last month, in the case of Alexander v. Price, 3:11-CV-1703 (MPS), the US District Court in Connecticut certified a class of Medicare beneficiaries who suffered financial loss because they had been hospitalized under "Observation Status" at some time … [Continue reading]

Use Your Smartphone to Document Your Advance Directives

Earlier this summer, I published a post (probably not for the first time!) about the importance of documenting your wishes for end-of-life care.  Currently, only about 30% of adults over age 50 have done so. As reported n the May-June issue of … [Continue reading]