Travel season is upon us and never before do I recall so many friends and family with plans to travel abroad. Traveling to distant countries doesn’t seem to be such a big deal as it was in the past.
Much of the youth of this country certainly have no qualms about it. My youngest daughter just completed a gap year program that took her to six countries in four continents.
Seniors have also embraced the opportunity to travel internationally with programs such as Grand Circle and Road Scholar making it easy to find adventures abroad. In fact, several of my senior clients have residences in other countries and live abroad much of the year while still others are planning to move abroad permanently for the experience and cost of living purposes.
But how far will your domestic health insurance reach outside the US? The US government has made it clear; you are on your own when paying for the cost of care outside the US. In our new healthcare reform law, coverage abroad is not included in the list of mandated benefits and Medicare does not cover you while traveling outside the US and its territories.
Most Medicare Supplements, plans that fill in the gaps in Medicare, provide foreign travel emergency coverage with a $50,000 lifetime benefit maximum. This usually does not include assistance services to help coordinate care or medical evacuation, and reimbursement is only made after translated receipts are submitted upon return. It took a Medicare Supplement carrier over ninety days of clumsy processing to reimburse a client with a recent foreign travel claim. These claims are not as systematic as domestic claims and require more handling, and domestic carriers aren’t as efficient with their processing.
With the increase in travel, awareness of the lack of coverage from domestic plan sources, and steady news stories of violence and virus outbreaks, the purchase of travel insurance has grown consistently from year-to-year. A report from UStiA, a not for profit travel association, reported that $2.2 billion was spent on travel-related insurance products in 2014, a jump of 17.5% from 2012!
With this demand, the market has responded with a plethora of products. This, in turn, has brought us competitive pricing, an improvement in coverage, and innovation in areas of assistance and technology. Having sold travel insurance for 25 years, I can attest to these improvements.
In my Q&A section below I highlight a product line from a carrier we recommend for travel insurance.
A Closer Look: Hospice Care Benefit
In 1986, Congress added hospice care as a permanent benefit to the Medicare program and it remains today one of the most generous Medicare benefits available. Medicare Part A covers 100% of hospice care, for the most part, but it’s important to know what benefits are included as well as those that are not covered.
In general, hospice care provides support to patients and their loved ones during the advanced stages of a terminal illness. It focuses on comfort and quality of life, rather than a cure.
You qualify for the hospice care benefit if you have Medicare Part A and meet all of the following conditions:
- Your hospice doctor and your regular doctor (if you have one) certify that you’re terminally ill with a life expectancy of 6 months or less. Note: If you live longer than 6 months, you can still get hospice care, as long as the hospice medical director or otherhospice doctor recertifies that you’re terminally ill (with a life expectancy of 6 months or less).
- You accept palliative care for comfort instead of care to cure your illness.
- You sign a statement choosing hospice care instead of other Medicare-covered treatments for your terminal illness and related conditions.
If you qualify for hospice care, you and your family will work with your hospice team to set up a plan of care that meets your needs. If your health improves or your illness goes into remission, you may no longer need hospice care and have the right to stop hospice care at any time.
Other key points to know about Medicare’s hospice coverage:
- The hospice provider you choose must be Medicare-approved. To find a hospice center in your area, use the search tool from the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. (Be sure to ask if they are Medicare-approved).
- You may need to pay a copayment of no more than $5 for each prescription drug and other similar products for pain relief and symptom control while you’re at home. In the rare case your drug isn’t covered by the hospice benefit, your hospice provider should contact your Medicare drug plan to see if it’s covered under Part D.
- You may need to pay 5% of the Medicare-approved amount for inpatient respite care, which is temporary care provided in a nursing home or other inpatient facility. (So that a family/friend caregiver can have time off).
- Medicare doesn’t cover room and board when you get hospice care in your home or another facility where you live, such as a nursing home.
- You must pay the deductible and coinsurance amounts for all Medicare-covered services to treat health problems that aren’t part of your terminal illness and related conditions. (A Medicare Supplement plan can cover deductibles and coinsurance).
- You also must continue to pay Medicare premiums, if necessary.
Here are other websites that provide more information and resources on the subject:
California Hospice and Palliative Care Association
Hospice by the Bay
Hospice Foundation of America
The Question Column: Travel Insurance
Q: What is travel insurance and can you recommend the best plan?
A: A travel health insurance plan provides coverage for medical benefits and emergency evacuation in the case of a sudden illness or injury while traveling abroad.
In addition to these benefits, a good travel insurance company will provide the following services:
- Easy and free access to their 24/7 phone, web, and mobile customer support.
- Prompt access to trusted doctors and hospitals.
- Facilitating medical treatment by arranging communication with US-based physicians.
- Arranging quality local hospital care if traveler is unfit to fly.
- Coordinating with hospital and medical staff for medical evacuation transportation.
- Working with out-of-country hospital and medical finance offices to arrange guarantee of payment for treatment.
- A clear and manageable claims process so claims are paid direct or reimbursement is made in a timely manner.
We recommend GeoBlue, a travel insurance company headquartered in Radnor, PA. GeoBlue is unique because they offer all of these services, and more. And, they handle all claims, billing, and evacuation services in-house (instead of through a third-party administrator).
In addition, GeoBlue offers cutting-edge destination services to help you plan a safe trip.These services include safety alerts, country profiles, and prescription translation, to name a few. They have an extensive network of pre-screened providers and hospitals around the world to ensure your safety and save you time. Their Smartphone app delivers these services as well as GPS maps to make access to their proprietary provider network simple and efficient.
GeoBlue offers many travel insurance options to fit your needs, including:
- Competitively priced single trip insurance for those traveling from 1 to180 days.
- A cost-effective, multi-trip plan covering all trips taken within a twelve-month period (less than 70 days duration per trip). We highly recommend this annual plan for those who travel internationally more than one time per year.
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance to protect your financial investment.
- Longer-term insurance for those working, traveling or studying abroad six months or longer.
To learn more, visit our Travel Insurance Website. Here you can review plan details and benefit options, get a free quote, and enroll in any of GeoBlue’s travel insurance plan options.