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Time Is Running Out for U.S. Expats to Think About Medicare and Worldwide Coverage

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Open Medicare enrollment began January 1st and will end on March 31st. Time is running out for U.S. expats to think about Medicare and worldwide coverage.

During the Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) you can:

  • Switch Medicare Advantage Plans with no penalty.
  • Drop Medicare Advantage plan coverage and return to Original Medicare, and/or
  • Add a standalone Part D drug plan if you drop Medicare Advantage coverage.

The same period is also General Enrollment for those who have not yet signed up for Part B. General Enrollment allows people who have elected not to participate in Part B to sign up and subsequently select a Medicare Advantage Plan, if they would like, from April 1st to June 30, with an effective date of July 1st.

First, if you do not have Part B, get it. I can’t tell you how many people aged 65-to-70 tell me they don’t need Part B. They are healthy and plan to stay abroad forever. And I also can’t tell you how many people I talk with who are 70+ and are trying to figure out how to get Medicare Advantage because they need care and want to go home to get it. Part B has a 10 percent penalty for each 12-month period that eligible seniors do not elect to participate.

This penalty is permanent, increases with cost increases in Part B (almost 15 percent last year) and can be ruinous later in life when financial resources are weakest. If you don’t have Part B and want a sobering look at what it will cost later if you don’t participate now, check out our most recent blog on the subject. I get too many calls from people looking for a great Advantage Plan to support their time outside the U.S., only to bring it to an abrupt end when I ask about Part B. Please, please get Part B. If you missed your Initial Enrollment Period, you have until March 31st. If you don’t, the door closes until 2023.

Second, if you have an Advantage Plan and haven’t comparison shopped for a few years, give us a call. We are in the Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which means you can switch policies with no penalties or hassles.

We have access to great analytics for Plans all over the U.S. I would estimate that for 60 percent of the people we talk to, they end up not switching. But all Advantage Plans are not created equal when it comes to coverage outside the U.S. They provide worldwide coverage. Some Advantage Plans do not have any worldwide coverage at all, and the terms of the coverage that exist can vary widely.

Take a minute to look at your policy and make sure that you are getting the best coverage available, then go have fun. We are happy to check it out for you if you give us a call. If you do not use us, make sure that you speak with someone who understands the nuances of worldwide coverage, but please speak to someone before the end of OEP. The consult should be free, but don’t change policies without a good reason. But most importantly, don’t let OEP go by without taking a look at what you have to ensure you are fully covered.

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Wes Chapman
Wes Chapman was educated in Mexico and Spain and then had a 20-year career in investment banking in Latin America, including 10 years as regional director for Oppenheimer in Latin America. He has spent the last 20 years in the healthcare industry, focusing on patient-centric, value-based care. He started his company Fortende to address the unmet needs of Medicare beneficiaries who spend all or much of their time outside the United States. He can be reached at info@fortendehealth.com or through https://www.fortendehealth.com.