US travelers with Medicare supplement

Old Oct 13th, 2020, 11:09 AM
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US travelers with Medicare supplement

Planning ahead for the wonderful possibility of travel again...Is there anyone out there who has traveled to Europe and needed to use their Medicare supplement (plan F specifically, although I think there may be others that include foreign travel insurance)? How does it work if you need medical care? Do you need to travel with something more than your cards? Thanks!
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Old Oct 13th, 2020, 11:44 AM
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I have Plan F, but so far I have taken out travel medical insurance instead of relying on the coverage.

There is a lifetime limit of $50,000, and it only covers 80% of any bills. I am holding it in reserve until I am (even) older and regular travel insurance becomes prohibitively expensive. Although medical care is much cheaper abroad, $50,000 might be insufficient for a serious problem. Also, you need evacuation insurance in addition in any case, and I find it easier to buy the two together.

I expect that you would have to pay out of pocket and submit your bills on return, but I haven't checked into it, and it may depend on your insurer. Read the fine print.

When I wound up in hospital in Switzerland back when I was still on employee coverage, the first thing the hospital did was ask for my insurance cards (after establishing that I did not have coverage from an EU country). They then checked with the company. I paid the bills after I returned home and the insurance company then reimbursed me. But again, thanks to the screwed up non-system in the US, every situation is different. Other times when I have seen a medical practitioner in Europe I have paid the small bill myself.
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Old Oct 13th, 2020, 12:13 PM
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The card is of little use in Europe. Make sure that you have the bills for reimbursement upon return. This is a general statement as I do not have to worry about the variety of plans under my present coverage.
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Old Oct 13th, 2020, 05:02 PM
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I recently helped out some elderly relatives who had a medical emergency while overseas on a cruise. As noted above, the coverage limits are relatively low. One extended hospital stay, or one emergency procedure and you can reach those limits very quickly, depending on the country. A 2 week hosptial stay, half of that in ICU is what happened in this case...

Fortunately for them they
a) were in NZ when this happened, and the cost of care there is not like it is in the US
b) had travel insurance through the cruise line, and while not a large amount, helped out
c) no major procedures - so the bills were mostly routine tests and observation.

In the end between medicare suplemental ($20k in their case) + cruse insurance (another ~$25k), they came out mostly whole. It could have been a lot worse (both outcome and cost). We had to pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement ourselves. Fortunately they were allowed to leave the country before paying, and we put the balance on a $0 international fee travel reward cc.... so got a few miles out of it...

So for anyone needing travel medical insurance, I now recommend a generous policy of at least $500k coverage.


Or, you could end up with a hard-to-believe hospital bill like phillyboy is discussing on another thread.
Hospital Bill from Italy


Last edited by J62; Oct 13th, 2020 at 05:06 PM.
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Old Oct 14th, 2020, 09:12 AM
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Twenty years ago my husband became ill in Moscow and was in the American Hospital for 4 days. I recall that with the hospital bill and flight home (in bus. class) the total cost was $10,000.

When we got home I called the travel insurance company. The nice rep said: Send your claim to Medicare. I said: but Medicare doesn't cover overseas. She said: Just do it.

So I did ... and a few weeks later a check for over $8,000 arrived. M'care had automatically kicked the claim to the supplemental carrier (United Health/AARP). The remaining charges were covered by the travel insurance plan.
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Old Oct 14th, 2020, 10:51 AM
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Right. Your husband's supplemental plan paid 80%, and reduced his lifetime coverage accordingly. That is why it is better, if you are taking out travel insurance that includes medical coverage, to make sure that it is the PRIMARY insurer. Note that not all supplemental plans include ANY foreign coverage.

See: https://www.medicare.gov/supplements...medigap-travel
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Old Oct 15th, 2020, 09:22 AM
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I have a Cigna Surround plan that pays 80%. I had the same question you have and called them, You pay the bills directly and request reimbursement. Don't forget that if you want emergency evacuation coverage, you have to buy a policy yourself.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 09:50 AM
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Thanks everyone. I guess I need to look into travel insurance to back up my (very expensive) Medicare supplement.
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 09:39 PM
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It depends on the specific plan you have purchased. Plans must provide a minimum of coverage but are free to offer additional benefits; some but not all provide coverage outside the US and what they cover may vary. When my Mom was hospitalized in Switzerland, we simply called the prior authorization number of her Advantage plan carrier (Aetna, IIRC), gave them the details and contact info for the hospital business office, and never saw a bill. I was actually looking forward to an EOB just to see what was charged and paid, but none ever arrived.
BTW the nurses in medical management were outstanding, actually contacting me during her hospitalization to be sure that I was doing OK and offering practical and emotional support..
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Old Oct 21st, 2020, 10:01 PM
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@Seamus - you are talking about Medicare Advantage. The OP was asking about Medigap, specifically Plan F. Quite different.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 10:06 AM
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One should know what they are paying for, as supplement plans that include coverage abroad cost more.

I think almost every insurance company that covers you abroad requires you to pay the bills yourself, and them submit to them for reimbursement. Otherwise, you are somehow expecting all US insurance companies to have billing agreements what every provider and hospital in the entire world? How could that be, those hospitals or physicians have no incentive whatsoever to pay the admin costs that would involve. It would be impossible.

I think there are some BCBS plans that do have some network agreements with some providers in Europe, but it's not the norm. That means they might pay directly, at least part of the bill.

I believe travel insurance medical policies work the same way.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 08:01 PM
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yes, thursday, I know the difference but I read OP's post as askig about Plan F OR other options - that's why I pointed out that Mom was on an Advantage plan.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2020, 09:07 PM
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The OP said "specifically" Plan F, i.e. Medigap.
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