sunrise sailing boatRetiring abroad is not just a dream; for many Americans, it is becoming a reality. The lower cost of living, improved technology worldwide, and availability of easy travel make an overseas retirement much more available to many Americans. But if you’re thinking of retiring in a foreign country, or even just making extended visits, don’t forget to plan for your health care.

You paid into the Medicare system via taxes for your entire working life. But even though you will be entitled to claim your health care benefits at age 65, Medicare won’t pay for medical expenses incurred in most foreign countries. Therefore, the burden of providing for your health care needs will fall upon you.

One option is to return home for medical procedures, and they will be covered by Medicare. This makes sense for routinely scheduled visits with your doctor, but it could mean you have to travel while you’re sick or injured.

Travelers often purchase Medigap insurance, which will pay for some supplies and services outside the US. Travel insurance is an option, but it often covers only emergency care. If you get food poisoning or fall and break a hip, you can receive care. But most travel insurance won’t cover routine doctor visits, supplies for chronic conditions, or management for non-emergency illnesses. Therefore, you will still need to plan for another form of health insurance.

Considering those limitations, your most realistic options are to purchase an international health insurance policy, or to buy a policy in your new home country. An international policy makes more sense for the avid traveler, while a policy based in a particular country only makes sense if you plan to live there full time.

If the country you choose provides universal health care to its own citizens, you might be able to tap into those public benefits. But do your research carefully, because some countries only allow their own citizens to access their health care programs.

Finally, some retirees living abroad simply choose to pay out of their own pockets for medical care. This is generally only possible if you choose a country with a very low cost of living (including a low cost of medical care), and you have planned for a very stable financial future. If you have questions, contact Mercedes at our office (760) 436-1711.