Prepare for medical emergencies when making traveling plans
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By Julie Ann Anderson  July 12, 2013 12:00 am

Vacation season is in full swing now, and many active seniors are planning trips. If your aging parents are planning to travel outside the United States, it’s important they know whether they have adequate health insurance in the event of any emergency medical needs.

 What about Medicare?

Most aging parents and other senior loved ones may assume their Medicare coverage is all they need; however, in most cases Medicare coverage applies only to services and supplies obtained within the 50 United States and other areas considered a part of the United States, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa.

There are some rare exceptions. For example, if a medical emergency occurs while you are traveling through Canada to get from Alaska to the “lower 48” (or vice versa), and you are using the most direct route, Medicare Part A may cover your expenses at a Canadian hospital if the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital and the medical situation warrants immediate care. For more information on when Medicare may cover medical expenses outside the United States, you can go to this web address http://medicare.gov/coverage/travel-need-health-care-outside-us.html to learn more in detail.

 Beyond Medicare

If you have private health insurance, check with your carrier to confirm that coverage extends to foreign countries and to see whether there are any limitations placed upon expenses incurred abroad.

If you do not have private health insurance or if your insurance coverage is not adequate for possible travel needs, you might want to consider purchasing travel health insurance. An insurance agent or travel agent can provide you with details about this short-term insurance, but here are some things you will need to consider:

• Size of the co-payment: Do you prefer a larger co-pay with smaller upfront costs, or a smaller co-pay with larger upfront costs?

• Amount of any deductibles: This also will affect how much your policy costs.

• Medical evacuation: Do you need a medical evacuation benefit to transport you to a different country if needed?

• Method of payment for services: Is the insurance centered on a reimbursement basis? Many travel insurance policies are, so be aware that you might have to pay for services yourself initially and then get reimbursed later.

 Most aging parents and other seniors do not experience medical emergencies while traveling. Still, it’s good to weigh your options and make sure your aging parents are informed about what their options are when making decisions about travel insurance coverage. Oftentimes, it isn’t until we find ourselves in need of just such medical help while traveling do we give this any thought.

A personal example I will share with you of the cost for unplanned medical care was while traveling on a cruise. A family member had an ear infection, which was quite painful. Down to the ship’s doctor we went and for a quick exam resulting in antibiotics. It cost us $250 out of pocket U.S. dollars.  This was small pennies compared to the lovely older lady who had a medical emergency on board four days later, requiring the ship to return to the port we had just left only an hour earlier. She had to be airlifted to the nearest hospital. Unplanned events happen, but if you are aware of the benefits/coverage or limits of your medical insurance, you can enjoy your travel plans with peace of mind!

Be safe and enjoy.

Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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