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Social Security Q&A

Couple of Things Seniors May Not Know About Social Security, Medicare

There are things women in particular should know about Social Security

Aug. 3, 2012 – There are a lot of things most of us don’t know about our senior entitlements – Social Security and Medicare. Oscar Garcia, Public Affairs Specialist with SSA, answers a couple of them here – are benefits calculated differently for men and women, and does Medicare cover us outside the U.S.


Are Social Security benefits computed differently for men and women?


No. Social Security treats men and women equally.

Men and women with identical earnings histories are treated exactly the same.  However, there are things women in particular should know about Social Security. Although treated equally by Social Security, there are trends and differences in lifestyle that can affect benefits.

For example, women tend to care for many people: spouses, children, and parents. Taking time away from the workplace to care for a newborn child or aging parent can have an impact on your future Social Security benefits.


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Also, despite significant strides through the years, women are more likely to earn less over a lifetime than men. Women are less often covered by private retirement plans, and they are more dependent on Social Security in their retirement years.

Women tend to live about five years longer than men, which means more years depending on Social Security and other retirement income or savings.

If a woman is married to a man who earns significantly more than she does, it is likely she will qualify for a larger benefit amount on his record than on her own.

To learn more visit the Women’s page at Follow the link on that page to the publication, “What Every Woman Should Know”. You can read it online, print a copy, or listen to it on audio.

We provide alternate media, as well, to reach as many women as possible and to provide the information the way you would like to receive it. Visit our website to learn about your future Social Security benefits.


Will Medicare cover my medical expenses outside of the United States?


Medicare generally does not cover health care while you are outside the United States. Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands are considered part of the United States. In rare cases, however, Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital services provided in Canada or Mexico.

Here are three examples.

One, you live in the United States and a foreign hospital is closer or easier to get to from your home than the nearest United States hospital that can provide the care you need.

Two, you are in the United States when you have a medical emergency and a foreign hospital is closer or easier to get to than the nearest United States hospital that can treat your emergency.

Three, you are crossing through Canada without delay between Alaska and another state and have a medical emergency and a Canadian hospital is closer or easier to get to than the nearest United States hospital that can treat your emergency.

Some Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans provide worldwide or emergency coverage when you travel outside the United States. You should check with your plan before traveling outside of the country.

Health insurance protection may be very important if you are temporarily abroad and plan to return to the United States. If you plan to return to the United States shortly after you are eligible for Medicare, you may wish to enroll during your initial enrollment period (IEP).

The IEP includes the month you turn 65, the three months prior to the month you turn 65, and the three months after the month you turn 65. Social Security can help answer Medicare enrollment questions, but coverage-related questions should be directed to  Medicare. You can find more at

Oscar Garcia is a Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration. You can direct your questions to him at: SSA, 411 Richland Hills Drive, San Antonio, Texas, 78245. You can also email him at


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