What to Expect When Traveling with Prescription Medications

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How about your daily dose of Lipitor? If you're traveling with medication, find out whether you will be able to fill prescriptions internationally, or if you can get a larger volume refill in advance of your adventure abroad.

Will Medicare cover my prescription while I'm on vacation?

Make sure you have enough of your medication(s) before your leave, because Medicare drug plans will not cover any prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.1 Keep in mind that travel delays are possible, and give yourself a cushion of several days before arrival at your destination and following your departure.

If you have a Medigap plan or Medicare Supplement insurance, contact the company or your agent before your trip to determine coverage and for help with getting your prescriptions filled in a larger amount to cover your time away.

Since Medicare does not cover prescription drugs purchased beyond U.S. borders, you should consider purchasing supplemental insurance if you plan to travel with medication frequently.

Are there things I need to be aware of before traveling with medication?

The U.S. Department of State recommends travelers who have pre-existing medical conditions carry a letter from their doctor describing what prescription medications they take (generic names included), along with an overview of their condition. Keep that letter in your wallet; carry it with you at all times.

Pack your prescriptions in your carry-on luggage to prevent loss; make sure they're clearly labeled and in their original containers and packaging. You should also make sure the prescription is not illegal in the country you're visiting, or in a country where you might be spending a short amount of time (for instance, during a layover).2 Check with the embassy of your destination country to determine what drugs are illegal there.

Familiarize yourself with the generic names of your medications in case you do need to purchase prescriptions on your trip; the generic names may be more recognizable in a foreign pharmacy.3

Another important consideration? Carrying enough cash should the purchase of medications be required, as many foreign countries only accept cash payment for healthcare services and supplies.

How can I get my prescription filled before traveling internationally?

Allow enough time to get your prescription filled before you go. Humana's insurance plans, for example, give members a “vacation override,” allowing them to refill a prescription early in advance of a trip (though you may need to obtain additional approvals on account of state and federal regulations for certain controlled substances).

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