How does Medicare work while traveling abroad?
Getting ready to travel is always exciting. But, knowing what your Medicare policy covers is especially important when your travels take you abroad. Our team at CoverageCoach understands, and we’re here to help.
Typically, Original Medicare does not cover your health care outside of the country. Additionally, a Medicare Advantage plan offers some coverage if you travel to a foreign country. This policy may cover part of your hospital and other medical costs in the event of an emergency. And while Medicare Supplement policies have various options for travelers, as well, it’s important to know the differences between Medicare policies while abroad.
Let’s try to break it down more simply below:
The US Territories
There’s good news if you’re planning a visit to the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, or the Northern Mariana Islands. These destinations are considered part of the United States, and your Original Medicare coverage should extend to these areas.
You may have to pay out-of-network costs if you have certain Medicare Advantage plans. Other plans will cover you anywhere in the US and its territories. Emergencies and urgent care are covered anywhere in the country, including territories.
Lastly, Medicare can cover you in Canada if you are on your way to or from Alaska.
Medicare will only cover medically-necessary care on a ship if you are within territorial waters of the US. Most cruise lines offer separate insurance that will cover onboard and even destination medical costs.
Passengers on a cruise in the US waters can have Medicare coverage as long the services are in the US. So, this coverage can be an advantage of a river or coastal cruise.
Traveling with Medicare
Seniors can travel throughout the United States, knowing Medicare covers them.
Some Medicare Supplement plans will pay up to 80% of the cost of emergency care in a foreign country. In some areas near border towns, Medicare will pay for services in Canada or Mexico if the hospital is closer to your home than the nearest available hospital in the US.
Although Medicare will cover emergencies, it is recommended that you have separate travel insurance for the duration of your trip. Medicare Advantage Plans and other supplements will not cover airfare back to the US, prescriptions from foreign doctors, airlifts, or even an ambulance. Medicare does not cover elective surgery, special treatments, or other medical services in foreign countries.
Separate travel insurance may cover emergencies, including medical airlift, if necessary. It may cover return airfare, trip interruption, cancellations, and other changes to your itinerary. Then, your Medicare coverage resumes when you return to the United States. If you’re curious about moving with Medicare, check out CoverageCoach’s take on the topic here.
In conclusion, if you do decide to travel outside of the US, take the opportunity to learn more about coverage. For instance, you may want to talk to an expert about Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans if you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage.