Medicare covers health care while you’re traveling within the United States, which includes the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but not outside of the country. Medicare Supplement Insurance, known as Medigap, was designed to cover such a gap in service and does include health care abroad.
Ari Parker, the head Medicare adviser and co-founder of Chapter, a free service that offers advice on Medicare plans, described a client who was traveling in Paris when he suffered a heart attack. Medigap covered 80 percent of his more than $30,000 hospital bill after a $250 deductible, and he was able to fly commercially back to the United States after he was released.
However, Medicare plans do not cover a return home by ambulance or evacuation by air.
“Here, someone should consider travel insurance to provide protection in the event they need to be repatriated and they know they want to come back to the U.S. for treatment if something happens,” Mr. Parker said.
Travel insurance is priced by the traveler’s age, destination, trip cost and length of trip. Prices vary significantly based on these variables and the coverage offered by the plans, but tend to average about four to 10 percent of trip costs, according to TravelInsurance.com, an online marketplace for travel insurance.
Pay in foreign currencies
To get the best exchange rate when using a credit card to pay for something abroad, always select the “pay in local currency” option when it is offered. That guarantees that you’ll get an exchange rate from a bank, which is as close to the official currency exchange rate as possible, as opposed to a merchant who may not be using the best rate.
In Costa Rica recently, where United States dollars and Costa Rica colones are widely accepted, Ms. Haskins of International Living got a bill in a restaurant that showed both currencies. “Doing the conversion from colones, I saw that it should have been $23, but it was $29,” she said. “Six dollars at every meal would add up.”