Will Medicare cover you when you travel? If you plan on traveling throughout the United States or to any of the American territories, Original Medicare will cover you if you need medical care during your trip. The American territories consist of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.
However, if you plan to travel outside of the country, you will need additional coverage. Except in rare cases, Original Medicare does not cover you when you travel internationally. The circumstances when Original Medicare may cover you are when an emergency occurs and you:
- are within the country, but a foreign hospital that is able to treat you is closer than any American hospital.
- are driving through Canada from one state to Alaska (or vice versa), and a Canadian
hospital that can treat you is actually closer than an American one.
- live within the country, but a foreign hospital that is able to treat you is closer than any American hospital (can be for non-emergent cases as well).
So, if Original Medicare doesn’t cover you during international travels, what does? Luckily, there are Medicare plans that provide emergency coverage when traveling outside the U.S.
Medicare Advantage Foreign Travel Coverage
Medicare Advantage plans are private plans that pay for your healthcare instead of Original Medicare. You’ll get most of your healthcare care from the plan’s network of local providers and you pay co-pays for your medical services as you go along. Many plans include a built-in Part D pharmacy benefit as well. However, Medicare Advantage plans also include coverage for worldwide emergencies. When traveling, be sure to remember your Medicare Advantage ID card, because the hospital will usually bill your plan for you. On the off chance that the foreign hospital doesn’t bill your carrier, be sure to keep your receipts. Once you return to the United States, your Medicare insurance agent can assist you in submitting your receipts for reimbursement. It’s important to remember that this benefit is for emergencies only. Your carrier won’t pay for a routine check-up at a foreign doctor’s office.
Medigap Foreign Travel Coverage
Medicare Advantage plans aren’t the only way to get coverage for foreign travel. Some beneficiaries choose to supplement their Medicare benefits with Medigap plans. Also called Medicare supplements, these plans pay after Original Medicare first pays its share of your covered medical expenses.
There are ten standardized Medigap plans to choose from and you can purchase a Medigap plan from a variety of major insurance carriers. All Medigap plans give you nationwide access to medical providers. You can treat at any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, so these plans are great for travel in the United States.
However, several plans include a foreign travel emergency benefit as well. There are six total Medigap plans that have an 80% coverage for foreign travel emergencies. Medigap Plan C, D, F, G, M, and N are the specific plans that have the foreign travel coverage benefit. This benefit kicks in once you have met the deductible of $250. After that, the plan will pay 80% of your foreign travel emergency expenses.
You only have access to this benefit within the first 60 days you are outside the United States. Also, this benefit has a lifetime limit of up to $50,000. Meaning, once you have used $50,000 of the plan’s money for foreign travel emergencies, they will no longer cover your medical care outside of the country.
If you have a Medigap plan and plan to be outside of the country longer than 60 days, talk with your travel agent. Usually, travel agents are able to get you set up on a short-term medical plan. That way you are covered for your entire trip and not just the first 60 days.