Seniors, Are You Aware That Medicare Stops at the Border?  
Written By Bill Judge,
President, eSafeTravels.com

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Buying travel insurance can be confusing when everyone is trying to sell it to you at the time of ticket purchase.  Everyone from airlines, cruise lines, travel agents and tour companies are doing it and this is where problems can occur.  Understanding what best suits your travel needs is our goal.

When people think of travel insurance, they’re typically thinking of travel delays and baggage problems.  Admittedly, cancelled flights and lost baggage are a few travel inconveniences that travelers have no control over, but one thing you can control is having the security of knowing that if you need medical care outside the country, you can be properly covered.

Here are some questions that need to be answered.  Who should I buy it from; the tour operator, the travel agent or a travel insurance specialist? What type of travel insurance coverage should I buy; Medical Evacuation, Travel Medical or Trip Cancellation?  When is the best time to buy travel insurance?

Buying Travel Insurance

Most, but not all, tour operators and travel agents do not hold the proper insurance licenses to offer all types of travel insurance, so they are limited in their travel insurance products.  Keep that point in mind when you are being asked to purchase travel insurance. 

When you are booking any travel, you should ask if travel insurance is already included in the rate.  Ask for an outline of coverage and certainly ask about the medical insurance portion of the policy, if any. If it’s not what you want, then you must opt out of the program. 

What type of travel insurance is right for Medicare Recipients?

The exposure to financial harm is high for anyone traveling outside the United States, especially for seniors who are on Medicare, since Medicare stops at the border except for limited circumstances.  If you have a Medicare Supplement Policy, there is some relief for emergency medical care, but that also has limits – you can very easily exceed the limit causing you to dip into your retirement savings.

The lifetime maximum for foreign travel coverage outside the United States on Medicare Supplement policies is $50,000.  For example, a couple on Medicare with a Medicare Supplement Policy are taking a Caribbean cruise and one of them is in need of critical care while out in the open ocean.  First thing, if possible, an air ambulance is dispatched from the nearest facility.  The patient is treated, possibly prepared for emergency medical evacuation back to the United States or is required to stay until travel is an option.  Can you imagine the cost of this medical need?  What would that do to your retirement planning?  Unfortunately, it happens every day.

Now, what happens if it were only a minor medical problem such as a slip and fall requiring some sort of care or chest pains that turn out to be a false alarm?

In this last example, the cold facts are that the cost of the medical care received would exceed the cost of the purchased travel medical insurance premiums.

Plan Name
Patriot Travel Medical Insurance
w/trip Cancellation Rider
Patriot T.R.I.P Trip
Cancellation/Interruption
Differences
Full Medical with lower coverage’s for lost baggage and delays.
Higher coverage's for interruptions and lost baggage, less medical.
Age
67
67
Cost of Trip
$3,000
$3,000
Length of Trip
7 day Cruise
7 day Cruise
Premium
$179.49
$209.40

Without Travel Medical Insurance, you are required to pay for services at the time you receive them.  However, if you have travel medical insurance, those issues are handled by the travel insurance company, not you.  A call to the customer service line of your insurance company you selected is all that is necessary to begin the payment process.

Recommendation on Travel Insurance

For traveling seniors, purchasing an International Medical Travel Insurance policy with a trip cancellation/interruption rider makes the most sense.  This type of policy will give you the protection on both sides of the potential problem areas which are international medical care, travel delays, interruptions, lost luggage, etc.

When to purchase travel insurance?

The best time to buy travel insurance is within 14 days of putting down the initial deposit on your trip.  This will normally qualify you for coverage for any pre-existing medical conditions, especially for Medicare Recipients.

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