Traveling outside of the United States for work or fun can be a wonderful opportunity, but when you experience an unexpected medical crisis or need to see a doctor, you may have concerns about paying for your treatment and care. If you are eligible for Medicare, consider your options before making your travel plans.
Medicare covers very limited healthcare benefits while you are traveling outside of the country. Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital care, a visit to a doctor, ambulance services, or dialysis you need while you are visiting a foreign country if you meet the following criteria:
- If you are in the U.S. when a medical emergency occurs and a foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition.
- If you are traveling in Canada without unreasonable delay by the most direct route between Alaska and another state when a medical emergency occurs and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat the emergency.
- If you live in the U.S. and a foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition, regardless of whether an emergency exists.
In some cases, Medicare may cover medically necessary healthcare services you get on board a cruise ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S. Medicare will not pay for healthcare services you get when a ship is more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port.
How Medigap Can Help Pay for Medical Care Outside of the U.S.
Many Medicare recipients who have Original Medicare and travel outside of the United States frequently choose to purchase supplemental insurance. A Medigap, or Medicare Supplement, policy can help cover foreign travel emergency care. Plans C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, M or N will cover your care if it begins during the first 60 days of your trip if Medicare doesn’t otherwise cover the care. These Medigap policies will pay 80% of the billed charges for certain medically necessary emergency care services outside the U.S. after you meet a $250 deductible for the year. Medigap’s foreign travel emergency coverage has a lifetime limit of $50,000.
If you are turning 65 and enrolled in Medicare Part B, you will qualify for a 6-month Medigap open enrollment period. During this period of time, you will have a guaranteed issue right to purchase any Medigap policy sold in your state without medical underwriting. If you plan to travel outside of the country, you may want to consider purchasing supplemental insurance when you first qualify. After your initial open enrollment period has ended, you can be turned down for coverage or charged more due to pre-exiting medical conditions.
Medicare Advantage Coverage for Foreign Travel
Many Medicare recipients choose to get their Part A and Part B benefits through a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. MA plans are offered by private insurance companies who contract with Medicare. They are required to provide at least the same benefits as Original Medicare, but many MA plans offer additional coverage. Check with your plan to find out what coverage they offer for foreign travel.