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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I recently took my 80-year-old mother-in-law to see her ancestral village in Ireland. On our return trip through Wales, my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip, which necessitated a partial replacement and a three-week stay in the hospital. In attempting to pay the hospital bill, we were advised by Medicare that it does not cover injuries or illnesses sustained outside of the United States!

Needless to say, this revelation was devastating to us, since my mother-in-law lives on a small Social Security income.

I have talked to more than 20 people since we got the bad news -- and have found only three who were aware of this exemption.

Abby, it would be a public service if you publicize this fact as a warning to others who plan to travel outside the country. -- STEVE CRAWFORD, CHAMBLEE, GA.

DEAR MR. CRAWFORD: People on Medicare should discuss purchasing supplementary medical insurance, which will provide coverage while they are in another country.

Those who are not on Medicare should make certain their health insurance policy provides coverage while they are out of the country. Many plans do provide some type of coverage, such as emergency services, but each plan varies, and it is up to the individual to find out what his or her plan offers.

Most insurance brokers and agents have an insurance guide that lists the various plans and the coverages they offer. If you are unable to obtain one from a broker or agent, contact your state insurance department or state insurance commissioner's office for a guide.

DEAR ABBY: Last September, my son was talking on the phone when a blood clot stopped his beating heart forever. It was a terrible shock to all of us.

Many friends and neighbors brought in food for our family. However, some neglected to put their names on the containers, so now I have several nice bowls and pans, and I don't know to whom they belong. I am too embarrassed to start telephoning people in an effort to learn who brought what.

Abby, please advise your readers that when taking food to a bereaved family, they should write their names on the containers so they can be returned to the owners.

Thank you from a grieving mom. -- WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WIS.

DEAR MOM: My heart goes out to you and your family on the loss of your beloved son. Realizing our mortality, we all expect that one day we will bury our parents, but having to bury a child is surely one of life's most heartbreaking experiences.

Thank you for writing to remind people who bring food to bereaved families to be sure their names are on the containers so they can be returned. Or better yet, bring food in disposable containers.

BARBERSHOP TALK: The famous French comedian Fernandel went to a new barber. Excited at having such a prominent customer, the barber almost danced around him and could hardly do enough. Finally, when he had finished, he got a mirror, held it behind the famous head and whispered, "Is that all right?"

Frenandel looked at him sternly and replied, "Almost -- just a little longer in the back, please."

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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