Traveling internationally is a big part of retirement for many seniors. While seeing different parts of the world is exciting, there’s always a chance you could experience medical issues while abroad. You’ll want to be protected, whether you fall and need medical attention or a chronic condition flares up. 

Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage have very limited coverage for travel outside of the US, but certain Medicare Supplement plans pay for foreign travel emergency healthcare.

Key takeaways:

  • Original Medicare generally does not cover international travel, but some Medicare Supplement plans help cover the cost of foreign travel emergencies.

  • Medicare Advantage plans may or may not cover medical emergencies while you’re abroad. Check your policy details to see if your plan covers international travel.

What Medicare covers for international travel

For the most part, Original Medicare doesn’t cover any healthcare while you’re traveling outside the US, including:

  • The 50 states

  • The District of Columbia

  • Puerto Rico

  • Guam

  • US Virgin Islands

  • American Samoa

  • Northern Mariana Islands

However, there are three rare exceptions for coverage. If you experience any of the following, Medicare may pay for certain healthcare services you receive in a hospital outside the United States.

  1. You have a medical emergency in the US but a foreign hospital is closer to you than a hospital in the US.

  2. You have a medical emergency while traveling from Alaska to the rest of the continental US and a Canadian hospital is closer than one in the US. You must be traveling directly, and without unreasonable delay for coverage to apply. 

  3. An international hospital is closer to where you live in the US than the nearest US hospital that can treat you. Coverage applies regardless of whether or not there’s an emergency.

Medicare may also pay for emergency ambulance transport to a foreign hospital—but only with admission for medically necessary and covered inpatient hospital services. 

Medicare won’t pay for any drugs you purchase outside the US. Any services you receive for these situations must still be Medicare-covered. If you experience a medical emergency abroad outside of these scenarios, you’ll have to pay 100% of the costs. If you experience any of the above, you’ll pay what you’d normally pay for Medicare costs.

Does Medicare Advantage cover international travel?

Medicare Advantage plans have to abide by the same rules set by Original Medicare. That means they cover the same services under the same circumstances. Additionally, most Medicare Advantage plans don’t usually cover non-emergency care you get outside of your plan’s network. ‍

However, some Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage for international travel. Check your plan details, or find a plan that has coverage for international travel if you prefer Medicare Advantage plans and you expect to travel frequently.

Does Medicare Supplement cover medical care during international travel?

Yes, certain Medicare Supplement plans cover some services received during international travel. If you have Original Medicare and plan to travel, we highly recommend getting a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan. Not only do they provide some foreign travel coverage, a Medigap plan also reduces your out-of-pocket costs.

The following Medicare Supplement plans provide foreign travel emergency healthcare when you travel outside the US:

If you have one of these plans, your plan will cover foreign emergency care if the care begins during the first 60 days of your trip, and if Medicare doesn't otherwise cover the care. It will also pay 80% (up to plan limits) of the billed charges for medically necessary emergency care received outside the US after you meet a $250 deductible for the year‍.

Foreign travel emergency coverage with Medigap policies has a lifetime limit of $50,000. Medigap Plans A, B, K, and L don’t provide foreign travel emergency coverage. 

Tips for traveling with Medicare coverage

Medicare can help you safely prepare for your trips around the world by covering your healthcare expenses. Put these on your checklist before you set off:

  • Plan ahead for your prescriptions and bring them with you. Medicare won’t cover any medications you purchase internationally.

  • Get vaccinated to prevent any illnesses while traveling. Check this list for vaccines covered by Medicare

  • Check with your doctor before going on a strenuous journey.

  • If you’ll be outdoors often in a sunny place, take lots of sunblock with you, including a lip moisturizer with SPF. Some Medicare Advantage plans can help cover sunscreen with over-the-counter (OTC) flex credits.

  • Buy travel insurance for extra coverage if you don’t have a Medicare Supplement plan.

You can avoid costly situations and have peace of mind while traveling if you have a Medicare Supplement plan or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes international emergency healthcare. A licensed Medicare Advisor can help you find and enroll in a plan that works best for you and your lifestyle. Call us at 855-900-2427 or schedule a time to chat to get started.

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