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Does Medicare Cover International Travel?

If you’re someone aged 65 or over who plans on doing international travel, it is important to keep your health coverage in mind. So you might be asking yourself, does Medicare cover international travel? 

Most Medicare plans don’t cover medical expenses outside of the United States, with the exception of some Medigap policies and Medicare Advantage plans. We’ve created this article to outline the best Medicare foreign travel plan options.

Medicare International Coverage

If you are enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you are only covered in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. If you plan on traveling abroad, you will need to be sure that you have a plan that covers international care. Some examples are certain Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans

But does Original Medicare cover international travel? There are in fact some exceptions in which Medicare will cover your health care abroad

For example, medically necessary treatments may be eligible for coverage under Medicare if you are on a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the U.S. land areas (as long as the ship is less than six hours away from a U.S. port). Other exceptions include

  • If you are in the United States when a medical emergency occurs that requires immediate medical attention to prevent a disability or death, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition
  • If you are traveling to Alaska through Canada via the most direct route and without unreasonable delay 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 United States and the 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.

However, in the vast majority of medical emergencies abroad, you will need a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan that covers international emergency care. Alternatively, you can enroll in an international travel insurance policy. 

International Coverage and Medicare Supplement Insurance

You may be asking yourself, do Medicare Supplement plans cover foreign travel? The answer is yes, and travelers 65 years of age and over can get international travel emergency coverage through Medicare Supplement Insurance. The Medigap plans that offer some sort of international travel coverage are Plans C*, D, F*, G, M, and N.

But even if you enroll in one of these plans, you will still be required to pay a $250 deductible and 20% coinsurance in the event of a medical emergency abroad. Plans also have a $50,000 foreign travel emergency lifetime limit

Plus, Medigap policies with international travel benefits only cover care that begins within the first 60 days of your travels.  Therefore, if you plan on being abroad for more than two months, signing up for a travel health insurance plan is probably a good idea.

You should also know that Medicare Supplement Insurance doesn’t cover routine care abroad, just medical emergencies. This consideration is especially important for people who plan on spending significant time abroad to keep in mind.

*Beneficiaries who became eligible for Medicare on or after January 1, 2020 do not qualify for Plan C or Plan F. Plans G and N may be good alternatives.

Alternative Options for International Medical Coverage

Some Medicare Advantage plans may also cover urgent care and emergencies outside of the United States. If this is something that you are interested in, be sure to enroll in a plan that offers these benefits.

But if you tend to be abroad for long periods of time, we recommend that you enroll in international travel insurance on top of your Medicare coverage. These short-term plans can cover costs related to medical emergencies, urgent care, and routine care abroad.

However, be sure to sign up for a travel health insurance plan before you depart for your trip, as you can’t enroll once you’re abroad. In the case of purchasing one of these plans, you will want to be sure that it covers medical emergencies.

Preparing to Travel Abroad With Medicare

Ensuring that your Medicare international travel policy is fit for your travel plans is crucial. However, there are a few other things that you should be sure to do before hopping on a plane and heading to another country. 

First off, be sure to bring all of your required medications with you to last you your full stay abroad. Medicare Part D benefits are only valid within the United States, so you will be personally responsible for covering any prescription medication costs you may incur in another country.

Also, it’s important to discuss your travel plans with your doctor before leaving the United States so that he or she can ensure that you get the proper vaccinations prior to departure. 

Once you get to your destination, it is important to be mindful of what food and water you consume, as drinking contaminated water could mean a trip to the hospital. Always be aware of local emergency numbers and hospital locations

Enrolling in a Medicare international coverage plan that covers travel emergencies abroad and following the precautions listed above will help to ensure that your travels are safe, smooth, and enjoyable.

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