Canada is one of the United States’ closest allies on the world stage, but it is also a very important trade partner. Additionally, many Americans work in Canada while living in the United States, and travel between the two countries is common for leisure and commerce. Both countries also share a common language and history as well as a uniquely western identity.

Although there are many similarities between Canada and the United States, there are many differences as well, including how each country handles healthcare and health insurance. In the United States, the federal government administers the Medicare benefits program, and this program provides access to affordable healthcare for older Americans and those with qualifying disabilities. In Canada, citizens take advantage of publicly subsidized healthcare for all Canadians. Because of these differences, and because many Americans find themselves on Canadian soil for travel and work, it’s important to know whether or not Medicare pays for healthcare needs for American citizens while traveling north of the border.

Will Medicare Cover Me for Medical Care in Canada?

In general, Medicare only covers recipients while in the United States. This means that if you have Medicare and you travel to Canada, your healthcare costs will not be covered, even if the services or medications provided would normally be covered in the United States. Part of the reason for this is that Canada has its own healthcare system for its citizens, but another element of the equation is that Medicare requires a contractual agreement between itself and participating healthcare providers in order to cover costs. This would require international contractual obligations between the United States government and the Canadian government and would likely become a complicated financial situation quickly, especially considering each provider would need to to receive payment upon the provision of healthcare services.

Are There Exceptions?

Although Medicare does not directly provide benefits to Americans in Canada, there are a few exceptions based on situational challenges. Most commonly, Medicare may cover healthcare costs in Canada for recipients who experience a medical emergency that necessitates care in Canada. Most often, this coverage is granted only if it would be detrimental to the recipient’s health to transport the recipient to an American healthcare facility.

Another situation where Medicare may cover healthcare provided in Canada would be when transport to an American healthcare provider would not be feasible. This might occur if an American Medicare recipient were in need of healthcare services in a remote part of Canada and transport would be more expensive than the cost of covering care expenses provided by a Canadian doctor or facility.

What About Travel Insurance?

Although there may be some exceptions, it is generally not a good idea to rely on the small possibility that you would be covered by Medicare benefits in Canada. If you receive Medicare and find yourself frequently traveling to Canada, you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance from a private provider in addition to carrying Medicare benefits. Medicare Supplement, or Medigap, policies help cover some of the costs that Original Medicare does not. Some policies will help cover medical expenses while you are traveling outside of the country. These policies are separate from Medicare, but they may be able to save you money if you experience a medical emergency and are facing 100% out-of-pocket medical expenses while outside of the United States.

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