Know Your Overseas Healthcare Options

You’ve retired! Or you’re thinking about retiring. Congratulations! Retirement can be a very exciting time in your life. For the first time in years, you aren’t tied down to your job and you can spend time exploring, pursuing a favorite hobby, or spending time with family.

I can go on and on about why you should spend your retirement years abroad, but I’m sure that’s why you are here at Escape Artist. Planning your retirement abroad raises a lot of questions, such as how to collect social security, how to gain residency, and even where to go!

One topic that needs to be addressed is healthcare. The first issue is the quality of healthcare. North America holds quite high standards for its healthcare. Hospitals ensure the best doctors and caregivers are hired and facilities are sterile and ready to treat patients.

Nobody wants to be sick while away from home, but it’s always a great idea to be prepared.

This information is great for anyone who is planning to travel abroad, not just those retiring. Knowing your options will make it easier when it comes time to take off.

Will your current insurance work?

The first thing you should find out is if your current health insurance can be utilized overseas. Some insurance plans will cover you while overseas. If the plan does cover you, you may have to pay extra costs for being out of network, or there may be limitations to what will be covered.

Some plans require you to pay upfront and be reimbursed after returning home, which may not prove helpful if you plan to stay an extended period of time away. For this reason, it’s important to learn what doctor visits and medication will cost before you leave, just in case you have to pay out of pocket.

Call your current health insurance provider to make sure you’re fully aware of whether you will be covered or not.

Medicare does not cover you if you are abroad. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa are considered part of the United States.

In rare circumstances, Medicare may cover inpatient hospital, doctor, and ambulance services, or dialysis while in a foreign country. The best plan here is to visit Medicare.gov to find out everything that is covered.

Many insurance providers offer expat insurance plans. When picking out your overseas medical insurance, ask yourself these questions: Will the policy cover emergency expenses, such as returning home if you become ill? Does it cover high-risk activities, such as scuba diving and mountain climbing? Does the policy cover pre-existing conditions? Will the insurance pay foreign hospitals and foreign doctors directly?

Insurance companies offer a variety of policies that can often be adjusted to your specific healthcare needs.

Where should I go?

The quality of healthcare can vary from country to country, so make sure you do your due diligence before accepting medical care from a foreign medical facility. Medical practices can be different and language barriers can cause some problems as well.

Also, the doctors in the new country won’t be familiar with your medical history. Consulting your regular doctor while away is not uncommon and can prove helpful.

To find a proper medical facility, the U.S. State Department provides a list of doctors and hospitals abroad. Also, nearby embassies can help you out as well. Country guidebooks can also help you find a good place to seek medical attention.

If you are planning on retiring or moving abroad and have conditions that may require frequent medical attention, try to live in or near places that have good reputations for having high quality medical care. Qatar, France, Norway, Hong Kong, and Luxembourg are among the top ranked healthcare providers, along with many other countries.

Consumer Resource Guide

Other tips.

One thing you need to do before departure is collect all of your current healthcare information: your doctor’s office number (in case you need to consult with them), HMO or insurance company contact information, and embassy contact information for the countries in which you’re traveling.  

Another helpful, health-related tip is to learn the generic names of your medication. Brand names are common in North America but generally not as easy to find while traveling. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of medications that you are currently taking. You should also have an ample supply of the medication in case you aren’t able to obtain it while away.

If you have a serious medical condition and decide to retire overseas, wear a MedicAlert bracelet. This will ensure that the medical facility will be aware of your condition in the event of an emergency.