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What Medicare Covers When Traveling

What do most people say they want to do when they retire? Travel. Depending on your needs in retirement, your Medicare health insurance program may not make the best travel companion. 
In the past, we’ve addressed in detail what Medicare A, B, C and D plans cover. Medicare Part A and Part B together cover essential medical scenarios such as hospital stays, doctor visits and medical equipment. Twist an ankle hiking and you may want those crutches.
Whether at home or on the road, these are worthwhile services.
But if you plan to travel quite a bit in retirement, let’s examine how Medicare meets — or doesn’t — your needs while away from home. When traveling, we enjoy indulging the senses. Often, this is where Medicare programs do a poor job serving as a healthcare concierge.
We’ll use both domestic and international destinations to demonstrate some shortcomings in the plans. Santa Fe, New Mexico, offers much to do domestically. And when you look to travel internationally, even core Medicare services may not be covered.

Medicare Coverage May Not Help You See the Sights Clearly 

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, there’s a lot to see. Exploring the regions mountainous natural beauty is a must. But you also will want to take in the art scene. Locals boast there are more art galleries per square mile than New York City. And if you happen to visit the area in October, the visual wonder of the world-famous balloon festival absolutely captivates.
With only Medicare at your disposal, will you see any of it?
Traditional Medicare does not cover routine vision care. Routine vision exams or glasses covered? Unfortunately, the case is often no.
Now, if you see a doctor for an eye condition such as glaucoma or cataracts, Medicare will likely provide coverage. Also, if you have elected to sign up for an Advantage Plan, a limited vision plan may be included.
So, if you want to see the sights while out and about, you’ll want to consider purchasing a standalone vision policy. It will offer expanded coverage beyond what an Advantage Plan or original Medicare provide.

Does Medicare Help You Hear the Music?

The only open-air opera house in the U.S., the Santa Fe Opera, is something to behold both in sight and sound. The theater itself is a natural marvel. Nestled within a basin, the theater provides panoramic views of both the Jemez Mountains and Sangre de Cristo Mountains while showcasing performances that are naturally acoustically tuned by the basin’s contours.
But would you be able to fully appreciate it with your standard Medicare plan?
Basic Medicare coverage, such as it was for vision, does not cover hearing. If you elect an Advantage Plan with hearing coverage, the maximum benefit will often cover a fraction of the cost of hearing aids. In many cases, the maximum is $500. Not much when the average retail price of a single hearing aid is more than $2,000.
You can find a number of ways to save on hearing aids. But with advanced hearing aids costing ten times as much as the basic models and audiologists recommending hearing aids once a hearing disability becomes apparent, looking at supplemental insurance may make sense.

And Medicare Struggles with Your Just Desserts

Though it might surprise some, Santa Fe garners recognition as one of the top food (or this article from Traveler) and wine destinations in the country. 
While out on these culinary adventures, say you chip a tooth or misplace dentures. Yikes. Basic Medicare? It doesn’t provide coverage unless, perhaps, it involves a health-related emergency or more complicated procedure. And, again, some Advantage Plan options don’t offer much help. They might provide some additional preventative care in the form of routine dental cleanings.
When you consider that dentures and tooth implants start in the thousands of dollars range, reviewing supplemental insurance options for additional coverage might be right for you.

International All-Excluded? How Medicare Works Out of Country

You a serious jet setter looking to travel abroad to the fjords of Norway? Or perhaps you’re a genealogy hobbyist heading overseas for family research. No matter the reason, you’ll want to plan not only for what you should pack but also what health coverages you could need. 
That’s because once you leave the U.S., Medicare stops covering your basic medical needs. That’s in addition to aforementioned sight, sound and taste services it didn’t cover domestically.
Even an Advantage Plan may not meet your needs. They often cover emergencies worldwide, but basic services may be excluded.
A host of specialized supplemental health insurance plans and Medigap policies that include coverage while traveling overseas are available specifically to meet the needs of worldly individuals. 

Once the Travels Stop

Finally, once a person begins to need care to assist with basic daily activities, such as help with bathing and eating, Medicare generally does not provide coverage. Medicare considers these services long-term care or the support of personal care needs, not medical care. 
Separate insurance policies exist to cover the services. Just note: It can be expensive. 

Finding the Right Itinerary of Services

Like a travel agency helps you build the right itinerary for your trip, SelectQuote can help you select the best Medicare insurance plan and corresponding supplemental offerings to meet your needs. We have a number of resources at your fingertips. To get started, use our online questionnaire. 
The SelectQuote Senior site is full of helpful information about Medicare and how we work together to help you select the best coverage. 
And, finally, remember a SelectQuote licensed sales agent is available to answer questions. They help simplify the process and select a plan that’s right for you.
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