Hello, Toni:

My husband and I are currently on Medicare with Part B, a supplement, and Part D coverage. We will be moving overseas for a couple of years. I know that there is no coverage from Medicare for overseas expenses.

Is there a way to suspend our Medicare coverage (and the supplements & Part D) while we are overseas and reinstate it without a penalty when we return? It’s a large expense to have to pay premiums in both countries, but only to have benefit from one. If we were to drop the supplement and Part D while we are gone, would we have to be underwritten if we return (i.e. excluded if we have pre-existing conditions)? 

Thanks for your help with this. Part of our planning is trying to figure out our expenses while we are out of the country. 

Thank You,

Sandy, Tuscaloosa , Al


Good day, Sandy:

That’s a great question. Will you or your husband be working full time with true company benefits? Or are you just moving out of the country 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 States without getting the “famous” Medicare Part B penalty.

If not working full-time with company benefits, then I would advise you and your husband to remain enrolled in Medicare and keep your Medicare Supplemental plan because no one ever knows what will happen to your health in the future.

If you decide to drop your Medicare Supplement and return to the United States later, you will be subject to underwriting and have to answer health questions to re-enroll into a new Medicare Supplement for both you and your husband.

Yours is not the first question that I have received about stopping one’s Medicare Part B when moving overseas and then one has a serious health issue.   You then want to return to the US and re-enroll in Medicare Part B only to discover that your Medicare Part B penalty will go all the way back to the day you turned 65 at a 10% penalty for each year to when you were 65.

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

This year’s average Part B premium is $134; with a 100% penalty that would amount to an extra $134 or $268 per month for 2017.  What happens when Part B premium grows to $200 per month? Then your Part B penalty will be 100% times $200 or an extra $200.

Not only will you have a Medicare penalty, but you will also have a Medicare Part D penalty because you let your Part D prescription drug plan expire.  The only way to keep from having a Part D penalty is to have been enrolled in any type of creditable prescription drug coverage such as company benefits or VA prescription drug plan.

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