Retiring Abroad and Health Care Coverage: The Missing Link

A recent New York Times article by Tim Gray (NY Times 2/22/2014 page B4) highlighted the issues that a retiring couple can have when considering retiring abroad. Health insurance, as it turns out, may often be a stumbling block to realizing this dream. One main reason US citizens desire to retire abroad is the hope that their dollars will go further in a different country's currency. This can also work in health care services since many countries now offer excellent health care at much more reasonable costs than can be found in the US and Canada (sad to say, isn't it?).

There is a growing business in health care abroad, notably in India and Thailand, where health tourists can go to get those needed or elective surgery where the care is excellent and yet the cost will not be a such strain on the pocketbook. There are many countries, as Mr. Gray points out, that offer high-quality health care, like France and Panama. However, Mr. Gray points out that a major illness like cancer or a major accident will be a financial burden no matter where you find yourself.

And, of course, you do want to have access to good care when you need it.

Retirees must plan carefully for the eventuality of their needs. Medicare, for the most part, will NOT cover costs incurred while outside the US. There are private insurers that offer international coverage to US citizens and other foreign nationals which provide international coverage. For US citizens, most plans require a person to be outside the US for at least 6 months out of the year. However, this requirement will still allow some flexibility in returning to the US for a visit. It also will work for persons who sail in international waters and do not have a permanent US residence to call home.

However, as the article points out, there are often age limitation to the plans available. The earlier a retiree starts planning, the more likely they will be able to find and afford the international coverage they need for a stress-free retirement situation.

Retirees and expatriates can purchase what we call "expatriate insurance" policies which are long-term policies that can be paid for monthly, semi-annually, or annually. The policies require a full medical questionnaire and/or check up, so persons with serious medical conditions pre-existing will likely be excluded from the plan (a good reason to sign up early).

Here are some examples:
IMG Global Medical plans offered by International Medical Group (IMG) offer excellent coverage, but the person must be 74 or younger to sign up. Ordinarily, coverage ends on your 75th birthday. However, if a person is continuously enrolled from age 65 to 75, they will be offered a Global Senior Plan with no additional medical underwriting required. The insured can simply review the benefits and return the enrollment form with the premium. The Global Medical plan comes in several varieties: Silver, Gold, Gold Plus, and Platinum. The Silver plan is a fixed plan. Ordinarily, I don't recommend fixed plans to my clients, since they have a limit for each medical expense covered.
However, if you are living in a country with lower costs, this may be the ideal way to get coverage you need at a very reasonable price. The Global Medical Gold and Gold plus are the same, except the Gold plan has reduced coverage after three years whereas the Gold Plus plan does not have a different benefits in the fourth year. We also have long term Maestro global insurance for residents of Latin American and Caribbean

HTH Worldwide Another option is the Global Citizen or Global Citizen EXP offered by HTH Worldwide. Coverage is comprehensive and the EXP plan covers 100% of costs incurred outside the US. Unfortunately, coverage ends at age 75. All these options can be purchased for individuals, couples or families. They have some coverage for maternity which is not a common benefit in short term travel plans. These plans can offer a retiring couple the medical security they need to settle down in that ideal location without too much worry about medical coverage. They also cover you when you return home for that special occasion and even while you extend your travels to other countries. The US companies that offer them are well experienced in international medical issues and offer concierge services to assist their clients wherever they may be.

So, don't rule out that exotic location for your retirement! Let us help you find the right plan for you.

As always, we wish you safe and happy travels (and hassle-free planning)!

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