Enrolling in Medicare when You’re a Snowbird

Medicare when You’re a Snowbird

How do you enroll in Medicare when you are a snow bird?  Many seniors have a home in a northern state like Wisconsin but then spend their winters in the south where they own a seasonal home or maybe even a timeshare.  Keep reading some facts you need to know for your Medicare and Medicare supplemental products, or call 920-545-4884 for a personal consultation.

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Then there’s another fairly large group that instead of having second home, they spend their winters traveling throughout the south in a motor home or travel trailer. Either way, there’s always a concern about whether their health plan will follow them out of town when the snow starts falling

Signing up for Medicare when you have two homes

If you have two homes in different locations or states, Social Security requires you to sign up with the address of your primary residence.  They define "Primary Residence" as:

  1.  Address you use when filing taxes
  2.  You are registered to vote
  3.   Have your driver's license 

Your Medicare can go Where You Go

One of the great things about Original Medicare is that you are covered no matter where you are in the U.S. and can visit with any doctor who accepts assignment. And even if they don’t, the most you’ll have to come out of pocket is 15% if you’re in a state that allows excess charges.

The better news is that even though Medicare comes up short when it comes to medical expenses outside the country, there are six Medicare Supplement Plans (Medigap) that will cover will cover medical emergencies that happen outside the U.S.

Additionally, if you purchase Medicare Supplement Plan F or Plan G, these plans will take care of any excess charges that you might be charged by a physician.

Is there any Advantage for Me to Choose one Residence over Another

Yes there are. If you have two residences in different states, you’ll likely be charged much less in a state like Wisconsin or Illinois than you would be charged in a state like Florida which has rather high Medicare Supplement rates.

Knowing this, it makes good economical sense to shop a Medicare Supplement plan in both states that you have residences and see which state presents the better deal.

In some cases, like Illinois versus Florida, you are likely to pay have as much in Illinois than you’d pay in the sunshine state. So, when it comes to Original Medicare it really doesn’t matter which state you buy it in, the prices are the same throughout the country.

With a Medicare Supplement plan, geography does matter.

Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage for Snow Birds?

Medicare Supplement Plan

Medicare supplement plans works with (supplements) original Medicare

Pros

  • No Networks - you may use any doctor or any facility in the U.S. that accepts Medicare
  • Very minimal out-of-pocket costs
  • Can never lose coverage as long as you pay the premium
  • Has emergency foreign travel coverage for outside of the United States 
  • Pays on anything Medicare deems medically necessary 

Cons

  • Higher monthly premiums
  • If not purchased during your Open Enrollment you could be subject to underwriting

Conclusion

For those of you who’ve purchased a Medicare Supplement plan to pick up the costs that Medicare Part A and Part B doesn’t cover, you’ll find that your Medicare Supplement plan will also follow you as well as long as the doctor you see will accept Medicare.

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Medicare Advantage Plan

Medicare advantage plans, do not work with original Medicare.  It is a private insurance company administering your Medicare benefits (Once called Medicare replacement plans)

Pros

  • Low to no monthly premium
  • Has some benefits than normally exceed Original Medicare
  • Some have in United States travel networks 

Cons

  • Most are PPO or HMO's and you will incur much higher costs if you are not in Network.
  • Much higher out-of-pocket costs for services 
  • May have to get referrals for treatment or have procedure pre-approved
  • Limited coverage and claim could be denied
  • No Foreign travel coverage (on most plans)
  • Plan can change coverage's and networks at anytime but you can only change plans once a year.

Conclusion

A Medicare Advantage plan is a totally different animal and normally not a good fit for a snowbirds because they typically have an HMO or PPO network of providers. 


This means that when you are traveling out of state and you end up using a provider outside the network, you will likely pay much more out-of-pocket expenses.

There are, however, some insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans that are designed for people who escape the snow during the winter. Typically these plans will provide coverage in the state or states you’ll be spending time in. If you are living your summers in Wisconsin and your winters in Florida, be sure and find out in advance if the company has a plan designed for snowbirds.

 If you already have a Medicare Advantage plan that is not designed for people with multiple residences in multiple states, you can shop with an independent health insurance broker to find an advantage plan to meet your needs and then change to that plan during the annual election period that falls between October 15 and December 7.

What about Traveling Outside the U.S.

If you will be traveling outside the U.S., it’s important for you to know that your Original Medicare coverage will not help you with medical expenses while you’re out of the country.

As we mentioned earlier, there are six Medicare Supplement plans that will pick up emergency medical expenses so make sure you have one of them.

 There are some Medicare Advantage plans that will offer coverage during foreign travel. If you are planning to travel outside the country and aren’t sure if your plan provides coverage, be sure and call the company before leaving to ascertain whether or not you’ll have coverage. 


In most cases, the carrier will want to know where you are planning to travel to, how long you are planning to travel, and the kind of medical care you will need while traveling (other than emergency care). In most cases, even if you have coverage outside the U.S., if you are away for more than six months, you’ll likely be dis-enrolled from your Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Part D prescription drug Coverage for Snow Birds

Your Medicare part D coverage will also follow you around the country but it’s important for you to become familiar with the plan’s pharmacy network. 

Although your Part D plan is purchased based on your primary residence location, a lot of them have rather extensive pharmacy networks that will make it easy to have prescriptions filled in other areas of the country.

Enrolling in Medicare when You’re a Snowbird

Can be a little confusing but in reality the combination of original Medicare and a Medicare supplement plan is very hard to beat for coverage.  For details and quote on a Medicare supplement plan in your area call 920-545-4884 or email us from our contact us page.