As Baby Boomers enter retirement, one of their greatest desires is to enjoy travel that they’ve put off for many of their working years, including everything from visiting grandchildren in other states to a grand overseas adventure.
When asked about life goals, about half of Baby Boomers said they wish to travel and explore the world, according to Leisure Travel Trends, a Focalyst Insight Report.[i] More than 81 million older adults were planning to travel in the next year, spending a total of $126 billion on their next trip alone, according to the same report.
Regardless of destination, getting sick is probably the last thing on their minds. But what happens to those who get sick while traveling? Where will they go? Will their insurance cover their costs? A little advance planning is critical to protecting a traveler’s physical and financial well-being, particularly for those in the Medicare program, according to Julie G. Smith, vice president and general manager of WellPoint’s Individual Medicare East and Central Regions, who offers the following tips.
Pick the right plan. The first step for people with Medicare who plan on traveling is to pick a plan that suits their lifestyle. Several types of plans are available. Each has different rules when it comes to traveling among states or overseas. Some offer a great degree of flexibility to travelers. Others do not.
Medicare Supplement plans are the most flexible for travelers. People with these plans can go to any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare anywhere in the United States, Puerto Rico, U.S Virgin Islands and Guam. Unlike Original Medicare, most Medicare Supplement plans include some international coverage.
Unlike Medicare Supplement plans, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are composed of provider networks. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans cover emergency services while traveling domestically. However, rules for routine services vary. In general, PPOs cover medical services throughout the United States as an “out of network benefit,” which costs more. HMO members may be responsible for all costs of services rendered by out-of-network providers while traveling domestically.
It’s important to note that some MA plans include additional travelers’ benefits. For example, WellPoint affiliated MA PPO plans allow members to visit network providers in many of its sister plans across the United States at in-network rates. WellPoint affiliated MA plans also cover urgent and emergency care internationally. Members with questions regarding their plan’s travel benefits should check their Explanation of Coverage (EOC) for details.
Make arrangements to get and transport medication. One way for members to stock up on prescription medication is to order a 90-day supply through mail order. Call the number on your insurance card for details. Travelers can transport medication in carry-on or checked baggage, although some supply should be with the passenger in the case of lost luggage. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends that the prescription label match the passenger’s boarding pass and that the passenger bring supporting documentation.[ii] Large, national drugstore chains may be able to fill customers’ prescriptions when they’re away from home.
Carry medical documentation. Members should carry their insurance card, physician contact information, and a list of medical conditions and current medications with them while traveling. When traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to keep a list of food allergies written in the local language to share at restaurants, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.[iii]
Consider a pre-travel exam. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says seniors should visit their doctor four to six weeks before traveling.[iv] They need to be honest about any limitations they might have. Additionally, vaccines may be necessary, depending on the destination. Doctors also might want to write prescriptions for malaria, altitude illness or travelers’ diarrhea, according to the CDC.
Think about buying additional travel insurance, particularly if traveling abroad. Companies like WellPoint affiliated companies offer additional travel insurance at a reasonable cost. Options include emergency dental services worldwide as well as help with lost medications and coverage of emergency medical evacuation. These expenses could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Up-front payment may be required by people who do not have insurance.
In case of emergency, always seek immediate care. As mentioned above, the rules for Medicare plans vary greatly by design. However, in case of an emergency, members should always seek care at the nearest location.
“Traveling is a source of great joy to many of us,” said Smith. “But in the excitement of picking a hotel, booking a flight and planning your activities, please remember to devote some extra time to thinking about your health.”
This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider for advice about treatments that may affect your health.
About WellPoint, Inc.
At WellPoint, we believe there is an important connection between our members’ health and well-being—and the value we bring our customers and shareholders. So each day we work to improve the health of our members and their communities. And, we can make a real difference since we have approximately 34 million people in our branded health plans, and approximately 65 million people served through our subsidiaries. As an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, WellPoint serves members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as the Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in 10 New York City metropolitan and surrounding counties and as the Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), and Wisconsin. In a majority of these service areas, WellPoint’s plans do business as Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, or Empire Blue Cross (in the New York service areas). WellPoint also serves customers across the country through our UniCare subsidiary and in certain California, Arizona and Nevada markets through our CareMore subsidiary. Our 1-800 CONTACTS, Inc. subsidiary offers customers online sales of contact lenses, eyeglasses and other ocular products. Additional information about WellPoint is available at www.wellpoint.com.
WellPoint affiliated health plans are health plans with CMS contracts. The benefit information provided is a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. For more information contact the plan. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, premium, and/or co-payments/co-insurance may change on January 1 of each year.
[i] Focalyst Insight Report, Leisure Travel Trends, June 2007