What to expect when traveling with prescription medications

Passports? Check.

Luggage? Check.

Boarding passes? Check.

How about your blood pressure pills?

If you take daily medication, here are a few things you’ll want to know before you hit the road.

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

If you’re traveling within the United States and you need to refill a prescription, you may pay more than you would at home if the pharmacy is out of your plan’s network.

If you’re traveling internationally and you run out of your medication, things may get a little more complicated. As usual, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So the first thing you’ll want to do is stock up on your medication before you leave home.

Err on the side of caution. Here’s some helpful advice:

  • If you’re going to be gone 14 days and you have 14 pills left, unplanned travel delays may leave you in the lurch. Have more on hand than you think you’ll need.
  • Allow enough time to get your prescription filled before you go.
    • In some instances, Humana's insurance plans give members a “vacation override” that allows them to refill a prescription early in advance of a trip.
  • If you’re going to be gone longer than 30 days and you’re used to getting 30-day refills, check with you doctor or pharmacy about getting a 90-day refill to cover you while you’re away.
    • Medicare drug plans won’t cover any prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.
  • If you plan to travel frequently, you may want to consider purchasing a Medicare Supplement insurance plan.
    • These plans are great for helping with out-of-pocket costs not covered by Original Medicare, and many offer additional coverage for healthcare services or supplies that you get outside the U.S.
  • Finally, many companies offer short-term health and emergency-assistance policies to cover healthcare expenses overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

Things to be aware of before you travel with medication

Here are some helpful tips from the U.S. Department of State1 for travelling abroad:

  • Carry a letter from your doctor that describes your medical condition and lists any prescription medications you take, including the generic name of prescribed drugs
  • To avoid questions or delays at customs, keep your medications in their original, labeled containers
  • Check with the foreign embassy of the country you’re visiting to make sure your medications are not illegal in that country
  • 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

Sources

  1. “Your Health Abroad” U.S. Department of State, last accessed May 9, 2019, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/your-health-abroad.html#healthy, opens new window.

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