For those who live in the United States, enrolling in Medicare can be somewhat simple – at least as far as staying abreast of current information and visiting a local Social Security office if the need should arise. Those who live abroad, however, may have it a bit more difficult.
If you live outside of the U.S., and you are eligible to enroll in Medicare benefits, it is important that you first ensure that you have all of your timing correct as far as your Initial Enrollment Period dates and deadlines.
Here, you will have a choice to make in terms of whether to enroll in Medicare before your Initial Enrollment deadline while still living abroad, or leave it until you return to the United States. The choice that you make will, however, have an effect on when your coverage will begin to take effect. In addition, depending on the situation, it could also result in you having a late premium penalty going forward.
Are You Eligible for Medicare Benefits?
Just like those who live in the U.S., those who live abroad are considered to be “fully insured” and eligible for Medicare when they have enough work credits from work on which you, or your spouse (if applicable) paid payroll taxes. For those who are fully insured, this means that you are entitled to Medicare Part A without having to pay a premium for it.
In order to enroll in Medicare Part A and / or Part B while you are living abroad, you will need to contact the nearest American embassy or consulate in the nation in which you are currently residing. It is important to note that if you are residing outside of the United States, you will not be able to enroll in Medicare via the Social Security website.
For those individuals who are not considered to be fully insured and who reside in the United States, it is possible to purchase Part A of Medicare by paying a monthly premium for this coverage.
Unfortunately, for those who have a permanent address that is outside of the United States, it is not possible to purchase Medicare Part A coverage in this manner – even if you have maintained a “second” home or address in the U.S. during this time.
Enrolling in Medicare Coverage When You Return to the United States
However, if or when you do return permanently to the U.S., you will then have an Initial Enrollment Period when you will be able to purchase Medicare Part A, as well as to enroll in Medicare Part B coverage. You will be able to do this regardless of how long you had lived outside of the U.S. – or even how many years it has been since you turned age 65.
This Initial Enrollment Period will begin during the month that you return to the United States as a resident. The period will expire at the end of the third month following. As an example, if you return to the United States in July, then your Initial Enrollment Period will expire on October 31st.
If you enroll for coverage during this Initial Enrollment Period, your Medicare coverage will begin on the first day of the month after your enroll. However, if you do not enroll during this time period, you will be required to then wait until the next General Enrollment Period (GEP) for Medicare.
General Enrollment Periods, or GEPs, occur every year, and they run between January 1st through March 31st. Those who enroll in Medicare coverage during these periods will have their benefits begin on the following July 1st.
It is important to note that in this particular instance, in order for you to purchase Medicare Part A coverage, you will also be required to enroll in Medicare Part B coverage. Therefore, you cannot have one without the other.
Questions If You Live Abroad
For those who currently live abroad and have questions regarding their Medicare coverage, it is important to contact the Social Security Administration directly. This must be done via phone, fax, or mail. (The Social Security Administration’s toll-free telephone line and the email is not available for those who live outside of the U.S.)
When contacting the Social Security Administration, it is important that you provide the Administration with your full name, phone number, address, and your Social Security number. This way, the representatives will have the information that they need in order to review your specific benefits and data.
MedicareWallet.com is an unbiased, online resource for individuals turning 65 or already on Medicare. Our utmost goal is to provide information in a way that is user-focused, informative and ethical. With a combined 40 years of experience in the Medicare market, we can answer any questions about Medicare and Medigap insurance. Feel free to reach out to us at 800.376.0824 or by email at[email protected].