Does Medicare Cover International Travel? 

Today, most retirees aren’t sitting around watching TV. Many seniors are active and adventurous, and many enjoy traveling.  Traveling is a great way for seniors to stay fit, remain physically active, and continue to be socially engaged, which all lead to a healthier life both physically and mentally. 

If you’re looking forward to getting away, you might be concerned about your Medicare health insurance coverage while you’re abroad. To avoid any unpleasant surprises far from home, get to know how Medicare covers foreign (or international) travel before you get on the plane. 

Traveling abroad? How Medicare may cover your care 

Unfortunately, under normal circumstances, Medicare doesn’t cover health care when a beneficiary is traveling internationally. 

However, Medicare may cover inpatient hospital care, physicians, and ambulance services that you get while traveling in a foreign country in the following circumstances: 

  • While you’re on board a cruise ship that’s sailing in territorial waters that adjoin U.S. land areas.  
  • When you’re in the U.S. during a medical emergency and a foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital capable of treating your health condition. 
  • When you’re traveling through Canada by direct route between Alaska and another state and you have a medical emergency, and a Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest American hospital capable of treating your medical emergency.  
  • You live in a U.S. state, but a foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition, even if it isn’t an emergency. 

If you receive medical care while traveling internationally, and it isn’t covered by Medicare, you must pay 100 percent of the cost for your care. In the situations listed above, Medicare pays its share of the cost for covered medically necessary services. You are still responsible for your share of the cost as well as coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles. 

Do Medicare Advantage plans cover care while traveling internationally?

Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans aren’t obligated to cover health care you get while traveling abroad, and most Part C plans don’t include these types of benefits as additional coverage or extra benefits. However, you may find a Medicare Advantage plan that does cover foreign travel emergency care, so check with your provider for details if you aren’t sure about your coverage before making an international trip. 

How Medigap can help cover care while outside the U.S.

Beneficiaries who are enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B can purchase supplemental insurance plans known as Medigap (also known as Medicare Supplement) which offer some coverage for foreign travel emergency healthcare. 

When you have Original Medicare you can buy a Medicare Supplement policy during your Medigap Open Enrollment Period. This period begins when you have Part B and turn 65. During this 6-month period, you can buy any Medigap plan sold in your state. After this period ends, you may be subject to medical underwriting and can be turned down or charged more for coverage.

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