After a lifetime of working, many seniors have decided to travel the country in a recreational vehicle, commonly known as an RV. How many people do this, is anyone’s guess, but there are plenty. One million Americans live in RVs, according to The Washington Post. A RV statistics website, RV and Playa, reports 57% of the respondents who RV are over 65. These seniors need to address the many issues of living in an RV, including Medicare, one of the most important.
At the top of the to-do list is establishing a domicile, your fixed, permanent home for legal purposes. This is the address for voting, filing taxes, and renewing your driver’s license. It is also the basis for your Medicare coverage.
Then, it’s time to figure out how Medicare will work when you’re on the road. That depends on the Medicare path an RVer selects. The two most common ones are:
- The Original Medicare Path, consisting of Part A, hospital insurance, Part B, medical insurance, a Medigap policy (Medicare supplement insurance) and Part D prescription drug coverage, or
- A Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage (MA-PD plan).
(RVers with other coverage, such as a retiree plan, need to check plan documents or talk to a representative.)
RVing within the United States
No matter where you travel in the United States or its territories, Medicare will cover any emergency.
Sam tripped and fell while hiking and broke his leg.
However, routine or nonemergency medical care, such as Sam’s follow-up physical therapy, depends on the RVer’s specific coverage.
- With Original Medicare, you can check the Physician Compare database to find healthcare providers who accept Medicare assignment for follow-up care, such as physical therapy. Coverage would work just as it does when you’re at your home (legal residence).
- If opting for Medicare Advantage, an RVer should consider a PPO (preferred provider organization) plan. This plan provides flexibility to choose physicians and healthcare providers outside of the network. The services likely will cost more, and the physician must also agree to submit claims to the insurer. (Physicians have no obligation to see patients for non-emergency care out-of-network.) Check the plan’s Evidence of Coverage (EOC) for details about covering travel within the United States.
Heading out of the country
Medicare coverage outside the United States is limited. The few situations that can be covered, such as medical care on a cruise ship within six hours of a U.S. port, wouldn’t work for RVers.
Coverage of travel in a foreign country connects with your Medicare path decision.
- Those who choose the Original Medicare Path should get a Medigap plan (such as Plan G or Plan N) that offers the foreign travel emergency benefit. This will cover up to 80% of the cost of care outside the U.S., with a deductible of no more than $250 and up to $50,000 in a lifetime. The care must be medically necessary and begin during the first 60 days of travel. (This Medigap benefit is not meant to provide medical care for those who live in a foreign country for more than two months.)
- Each Medicare Advantage plan determines whether it will cover care outside the states and how that will work. Check the plan’s EOC or talk with a plan representative.
Prescription drug coverage
If a pharmacy contracted with your Part D drug plan has a national presence, your prescription drug coverage will work anywhere in the United States. Most pharmacies offer 90-day refills. It is best to stick with the same national chain, so your records are updated and available.
Part D prescription drug plans do not cover medications outside the United States. Make sure you have an adequate supply and follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Keep medicines in their original containers and clearly labeled with your full passport name, doctor’s name, drug name, and dosage.
- Bring copies of all prescriptions for medicines.
- Pack a note on letterhead stationery from the prescribing doctor for controlled substances and injectable medicines, such as EpiPens.
Hitting the road in your RV can provide some great, memorable adventures. Maybe you’ve been planning it for years; maybe you want to make it up as you go along. But getting the medical care you may need far from home should not become one of those adventures. If you’re about to enroll in Medicare, please choose your path carefully. Should the unexpected happen, you won’t feel quite so alone if you know that Medicare is on the road with you.