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Toni Says: Taking Medicare advice from friends can be costly

Dear Toni: A friend recently gave me Medicare advice that now has me very confused. She told me that some Medicare plans, such as Plan F, give foreign travel medical coverage, but others such as Plan G, which was my choice, do not. Is that true? I’m planning a trip to Greece next month. Do you have any recommendations to get reasonable medical coverage for my trip? — Lee Anne, Sugar Land, Texas

Dear Lee Anne: Your friend gave you bad advice.

Medicare supplement plans F and G (as well as C, D, M and N) cover the same limited amount of emergency foreign travel, an added perk Medicare does not cover. This foreign travel coverage pays for emergency care if it begins during the first 60 days of your trip. It has a $250 deductible, and thereafter the Medicare Supplement plan only pays 80 percent, up to a lifetime maximum benefit of $50,000. You pay 20 percent and any amounts over the $50,000 lifetime maximum.

Who knows what an air ambulance from Greece would cost? My recommendation is to talk with your travel or insurance agent or explore online for true travel insurance that will take care of your medical needs abroad. Not all travel insurance plans include medical coverage, so it’s important to read the plan’s conditions and restrictions.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a friend has misled someone over their Medicare option, and it probably won’t be the last.

Remember: Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans take care of medical and prescription drug expenses in the United States only. So, be sure to take enough of your prescription medication with you or you will have to pay out of pocket.

Your friend is apparently unaware that Plan F is no longer even available for those enrolling in Medicare Part A as of Jan. 1, 2020. Medicare supplement Plan G has taken its place. Plan N will now be the lesser premium plan with higher out-of-pocket costs.

Here are the main differences between plans G and N:

■ Plan G offers lower rates and the same Medicare benefits as Plan F, except the Medicare Part B deductible is not covered and will be paid for by the enrolled beneficiary out of pocket. The Part B deductible for 2023 is $226.

■ Plan N, in general, has lower premiums than Plan G with higher out-of-pocket costs. There is a $20 copay for a doctor’s visit and a $50 copay for the emergency room. The Part B deductible is also not covered, and Part B excess charges are not paid for by the insurance company (which Plan G covers).

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

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