Does Medicare Cover International Travel?

Learn what your Medicare policy covers when traveling internationally abroad to prepare for your medical needs.

One thing you need to learn about your Original Medicare insurance is what benefits your policy has for traveling during retirement, whether you will be going to another city or state in your country or traveling to a foreign country. Medicare and foreign travel have rules and restrictions you will need to know.

Does Medicare Cover International Travel?

Medicare does not typically provide health coverage to beneficiaries traveling outside the United States, with some exceptions:

  • A medical emergency happens while you are in the U.S., and a foreign hospital is closer than the closest U.S. hospital that treats your medical condition
  • While traveling through Canada from Alaska by the most direct route to another U.S. State, with no undue delays, a medical emergency happens, and a Canadian hospital is closer than the closest U.S. hospital that can handle the medical emergency
  • You reside in the U.S., and a foreign hospital is nearer your residence than the closest U.S hospital in an emergency or non-emergency situation
  • Medical care that is deemed medically necessary is needed when you are on board a boat or ship docked at a United States port or less than six hours away from a United States port

Note: Disabled people on Medicaid and Medicare do not receive medical benefits while living abroad.

Does Medicare Advantage Cover Foreign Travel?

If you plan to travel internationally abroad, it is important to inform your insurance carrier of your planned trip. They will explain how your Medicare Advantage plan covers emergency travel benefits if any, and how claims or reimbursement work with your policy.

Some Advantage plans might offer additional foreign travel emergency benefits. Check with your insurance company for policy details.

If you travel outside your Medicare Advantage plan’s service area for more than six months, the insurance company may automatically dis-enroll you from the Medicare Advantage policy. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check with your company before leaving the country to determine your plan’s limitations.

Medicare Advantage is the choice of about one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries.

Medicare Advantage (Part C) is required by law to cover all the services and supplies covered by Original Medicare. Even in the rare cases that Original Medicare covers (as noted above), you will still have to pay the 20% of coinsurance, copayments, and the Part B deductible.

Advantage plans offer extra benefits as decided by the insurance company. For example, some plans offer coverage for prescription drugs similar to Medicare Part D. This is important because you cannot buy drug plans with Medicare Part C. Vision, dental, hearing, and fitness benefits may be offered.

Do Medicare Supplement Plans Cover Foreign Travel?

Medicare beneficiaries who travel abroad frequently may benefit from purchasing a Medicare Supplement plan (Medigap). Medicare Supplement insurance is called Medigap because it fills in the gaps left over after Original Medicare pays its 80% of medically-approved charges.

Medicare Supplement plans C, D, F, G, M, and N cover 80% of charges billed for emergency care outside the United States if these conditions apply:

  • You have paid the $250 annual deductible
  • The emergency care begins inside the first 60 days of your trip
  • Medicare does not already offer coverage for the emergency care

Medigap plans are exclusively used with Original Medicare. Those with Medicare Advantage plans cannot purchase a Medigap plan.

Be aware that prescription drugs purchased abroad are not covered by Part D Medicare (prescription drug coverage). Many people with Medigap policies buy a Part D plan to cover their prescriptions. However, you may need to buy a private prescription drug plan. This would be a good question to ask your insurance company.

Travel Medical Insurance

Medicare and foreign travel can seem like a complex maze of questions and answers for many people. Knowing that Medicare offers limited coverage for medical services and non-emergency inpatient care, many choose to purchase travel emergency insurance coverage which can cover medical and non-medical expenses.

Considering the limited nature of Medicare’s international coverage, Medicare recipients may decide to purchase a Travel Medical Insurance policy. This policy can be used along with your choice of Medicare or Medigap plans. A Medigap plan may only cost around $9 to add a travel medical plan.

Get Travel Insurance

Considering the limited nature of Medicare’s international coverage, Medicare recipients may decide to purchase a Travel Medical Insurance policy. This policy can be used along with your choice of Medicare or Medigap plans. A Medigap plan may only cost around $9 to add a travel medical plan.

Check with your insurance representative before buying Travel Insurance to ensure medical coverage is included.

Get Medigap Coverage

Medigap insurance plans are named by letters and are standardized, meaning that a plan by the same letter name, say Plan N, has the same benefits regardless of the insurance company or state of residence.

Of the plans still available to enroll in as of January 1, 2020, Plans F, G, M, and N cover 80% of the cost of emergency travel benefits up to a lifetime total of $50,000.

How to Submit Foreign Claims with Medicare

Hospitals in a foreign country are not required to fill out and file Medicare claims accrued with your travel medical expenses.

Suppose you have been admitted to a hospital in another country by a doctor’s orders, and the hospital chooses not to file the claim. In that case, you will need to submit an accurate, itemized bill to Medicare on behalf of your doctor, inpatient staff, and ambulance services (if applicable).

To submit an accurate claim, you need to find out the following:

  • The exact amount of doctor’s charges
  • If your doctor accepts Medicare assignment
  • What type of facility admitted you
  • Where your test, service, or other item was performed