Will Medicare cover me while I’m traveling abroad?

Planning to travel during your retirement years? Whether you’re headed out of town, out of state or out of the country, make sure you're covered should you need healthcare away from home.

Does Medicare cover me while I travel?

Many older adults look forward to fulfilling their travel bucket list during retirement, but Medicare may not be along for the ride.

If you have Medicare coverage, you won’t receive reimbursement for international medical bills. Healthcare services received beyond U.S. borders are not covered.

In some cases, Medicare may cover inpatient hospital costs, ambulance services or dialysis for the following circumstances:

  1. You are in the U.S. when emergency treatment is needed and the closest hospital is in a foreign country (e.g., Canada or Mexico).
  2. You are traveling through Canada between Alaska and another state (via the most direct route) when an emergency situation occurs and the closest hospital is in Canada.
  3. You are a U.S. resident, but a foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. location that can treat your condition, regardless of whether it is an emergency situation.1

In any of these situations, the foreign hospital is not required to file a Medicare claim. If it doesn’t, be prepared to submit an itemized bill to Medicare.2

Your Medicare coverage follows you if you travel to:

  • Another state in the U.S
  • District of Columbia
  • Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Guam
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • American Samoa

 

Going on a cruise?

While on a cruise in international waters, you may be covered for medically-necessary care if the ship is within 6 hours of a U.S. port.3 Most liners have medical personnel on staff, but check with the cruise company before departure if you’re concerned about available medical care.

Do Medicare Supplement plans offer coverage while traveling?

Some Medicare Supplement insurance policies (also known as Medigap) do offer coverage for emergencies when traveling out-of-country. Medicare Supplement plans C, D, F, G, M and N cover some travel-abroad emergency help.4 No other Medicare Supplement plans provide foreign travel emergency coverage. Medigap plans can only be combined with Original Medicare.

How can I make sure I’m covered while abroad or away?

Since Medicare coverage and international travel do not necessarily go hand in hand, those who plan to leave the country should check their private insurance plan to determine what kind of services they could receive abroad—and at what expense.

Travel health insurance (not simply a travel insurance policy, as many don't include healthcare insurance) may be a worthwhile investment if you expect to be outside the U.S. often during your retirement years, especially if you have health conditions that could require continual care and services, specific medical supplies, prescription drugs or treatments.4

In some instances, Humana’s Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plans give members a “vacation override” that allows them to refill a prescription early in advance of a trip. Most Humana members may use 2 of these vacation overrides in a rolling 12-month period, although some medications require additional approvals for early refills due to federal and state regulations.

In some cases, Humana offers Medicare Part D, Medicaid and Medicare plan members coverage for prescription refills at out-of-network pharmacies. But remember: these pharmacies must be located within the United States to qualify for coverage.

Sources

  1. “Travel,” Medicare.gov, last accessed July 30, 2021, https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/travel, opens new window.
  2. “Travel.”
  3. “Medicare & You: Traveling Abroad,” last accessed July 30, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq2WbpPK-9c, opens new window.
  4. “Medigap & Travel,” Medicare.gov, last accessed July 30, 2021,https://www.medicare.gov/supplements-other-insurance/medigap-travel, opens new window.
  5. “Travel.”

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