Dallas Stribley—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image
By Carla Fried
March 16, 2015

3 Ways to Minimize Health Care Costs

Sign up for Medicare at 65 even if you’re not in the U.S. While Medicare won’t pay for care outside the country, many retirees living abroad schedule doctor visits when they visit home. Plus, if you later return for good and haven’t enrolled, you’ll pay a 10% premium penalty on Part B (the medical insurance portion) for every year you were eligible, says AARP’s Patricia Barry, author of Medicare for Dummies. For 2015, the B premium is $104.90 a month for a married person with modified AGI under $170,000.

Determine your needs. Many nations have two systems: public and private. You’ll probably prefer the convenience and facilities of the latter. Medical costs are lower in most other countries, even in the private system, but unless you can pay out of pocket, you’ll want insurance. Plan to stay put in your new country? You’ll be fine with a policy covering local doctors and hospitals. If you’ll travel, get an international expatriate policy.

Price private policies. Major insurers that offer international private policies include Aetna International, Cigna Global, Bupa Global, and GeoBlue. Members of the Association of Americans Resident Abroad (aaro.org) are eligible for a group plan—in 2015, a couple in their sixties will pay $500 or so a month for hospitalization coverage. Keep in mind that even group private policies require underwriting, so if you have a preexisting condition, you might have a waiting period and a higher premium. Also, some plans stop at age 75 or 85, though that may work if you’ll move back to the U.S.

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