Medicare does not usually cover care that you receive outside the United States. However, it may be beneficial to enroll in Parts A and B if you live abroad on a temporary basis, or travel back to the U.S. frequently.
Most people qualify for premium-free Part A, meaning you will pay nothing for coverage. If you must pay a premium for Part A, be aware of the high monthly cost for maintaining Part A coverage. Additionally, you may only be able to enroll in Medicare if you live in the U.S. Remember, if you are enrolled in Part A, you cannot disenroll without having to pay all benefits you’ve received back to the Social Security Administration (SSA). While you live abroad, you can apply for and receive Social Security retirement benefits if you are a U.S. citizen. In some countries, you can receive Social Security retirement benefits if you or your spouse worked and paid Social Security taxes in the U.S. for at least 10 years. If you were collecting Social Security benefits when you became Medicare-eligible, you may have been automatically enrolled in Part A. For more information about your eligibility for Social Security benefits while you live abroad, contact your nearest Social Security office, Consulate, or Embassy.
Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B coverage. If you plan to move back to the U.S. or travel back frequently, you may want to enroll in or keep Part B to ensure you have medical coverage during your stays, and to avoid potential gaps in coverage or late enrollment penalties. Be sure to do your research before deciding to drop Part B when you leave the United States.
If you do not enroll in Medicare during your IEP or elect to keep Part B if you were already enrolled, you may have to wait until the General Enrollment Period to sign up for Part B coverage. Make sure you are aware of the consequences of choosing not to enroll during your IEP if you live abroad.
If you plan to move back to the U.S. or travel back frequently, you might consider delaying or dropping Part B if:
- You or your spouse currently work outside the U.S. for a company that provides you with health insurance, or you or your spouse work in a country with a national health system. You will qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in Part B without penalty. This SEP begins at any time while you (or your spouse) are still working and for up to eight months after you lose your health coverage or stop working.
- You volunteer internationally for at least 12 months for a tax-exempt non-profit organization and have health insurance during that time. You will have a six-month Special Enrollment Period to enroll in Medicare without gaps or penalties. This SEP begins once your volunteer work stops or your health insurance outside of the U.S. ends, whichever is earlier.
Make sure you understand how to enroll in Medicare while abroad. For more information, contact your nearest Social Security office, Consulate, or Embassy.