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Moving overseas … should we keep Medicare?

Dear Toni: My husband and I are enrolled in Medicare with a Medicare supplement and Part D coverage. We will be moving to England, then returning to the United States in a few years. I understand that there is no coverage from Medicare for overseas expenses and that we should seek a medical plan if there are issues while not in the United States.

Is there a way to suspend our Medicare coverage while we are overseas and reinstate it without a penalty when we return? It’s a large expense to have to pay Part B, supplement and Part D premiums and not be able to use the benefits. If we were to drop Medicare, the supplement and Part D, would we have to be underwritten when we return to the States? — Sandy, Houston

Dear Sandy: Will you or your husband be working full time with true company benefits? Or are you just moving out of the U.S. for a few years to get away?

If you or your husband will be working with company benefits, then you can delay Part B until you return to the United States without getting the infamous Medicare Part B penalty.

If you are not working full time with company benefits, then I would advise you and your husband to remain enrolled in Medicare and keep your Medicare supplement plan, because you never know what will happen to your health. Without full-time benefits, if you decide to drop your Medicare supplement and return to the United States, you and your husband will be subject to underwriting when you reapply for a Medicare supplement.

I’ve encountered other individuals who, upon moving overseas, stopped their Medicare Part B and then developed serious health issues. Upon returning to the U.S., they re-enrolled in Medicare Part B only to discover that their Part B penalty goes all the way back to the day they turned 65 at a 10 percent clip for each year since age 65.

Let’s say you and your spouse are 75 years old when you return to the States and re-enroll in Medicare. The Medicare Part B penalty will be 75 years minus 65 years times 10 percent — a 100 percent penalty. Not for one month, but for the rest of your Medicare enrollment.

Because you are moving overseas, I would advise:

■ Do not disenroll from Medicare because you and your spouse will have to re-enroll in Part B and could receive a penalty.

■ For your Medicare supplement, if you do cancel it, then when you return to the States you can reapply for a new supplement — which will involve underwriting — and also apply for a Part D prescription drug plan.

■ Another option, if you have health issues upon your return and cannot qualify medically for a Medicare supplement, will be to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with Part D.

Take your time to explore your Medicare options. Do not worry, because there are plenty of options for you when you return to the U.S.

Toni King is an author and columnist on Medicare and health insurance issues. If you have a Medicare question, email info@tonisays.com or call 832-519-8664.

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