Do you need Medicare if you live abroad?

Written by Diane Archer

Medicare generally only covers care in the United States. And, Medicare premiums can add up quickly. So, if you plan to live abroad, do you need Medicare? The answer is a qualified yes. It depends largely on whether you plan ever to return to the United States and where you are planning to live abroad. You should always contact Social Security to fully understand your options. Here are a few key points:

You should keep your Medicare coverage:

  • If you plan to live in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, or the Northern Mariana Islands. Medicare will cover your care in all of these places.
  • If you plan to spend time in the United States at any time after you move abroad. Medicare will likely not cover your care abroad, but whenever you are in the United States you will be sure to be covered. If you stop paying your Part B premium while you are abroad, you will need to wait until the Medicare open enrollment period to regain coverage. And, you will pay a 10 percent premium penalty for every year you did not have coverage.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D plan:

  • You should switch out of your Medicare Advantage plan and into traditional Medicare. You are not eligible to be enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan if you do not live in its service area. You are eligible for traditional Medicare, so long as you pay your Part B premium.
  • You should drop your Medicare Part D plan. You are not eligible to be enrolled in a Part D drug plan if you do not live in its service area.
  • So long as you keep paying your Part B premium, if you move back to the United States you will have a special enrollment period to enroll in these plans if you so choose, without penalty.

If you’re enrolled in a Medigap or Medicare supplemental insurance plan:

  • You should call the Medigap plan to understand the rules for reenrolling and the premiums you will pay. It could be costly or hard to get a Medigap plan once you drop it.

For more detailed information about Medicare coverage if you live outside the United States, visit Medicare Interactive.  For information on what to think about before enrolling in Medicare, click here.  And, here are two questions to think about during the Medicare Open Enrollment period.


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