Does Medicare Cover Overseas Travel?
What do most retirees look forward to in retirement? Travel! Around 63% of Americans aged 50 years and older state that travel is an important retirement goal. If you plan to be one of these traveling retirees, you should become aware of how Medicare will cover you overseas. Original Medicare, Medigap, and Medicare Advantage provide different types of coverage overseas. When researching the different health insurance plans, you should consider your travel lifestyle before choosing a Medicare plan.
How Original Medicare covers you overseas
Original Medicare Part A and Part B cover you across the United States, and you can visit any doctor if they accept Medicare. Medicare also provides coverage in the U.S. territories:
- S. Virgin Islands
- Puerto Rico
- American Samoa
- Northern Mariana Islands
Although Medicare will cover you in these territories, it generally does not provide coverage in any other country since it is American insurance. There are a few scenarios where Medicare may cover you outside of the United States.
- If you have a medical emergency and an international hospital is closer to you than a U.S. hospital, you can visit the international hospital to treat your injury or illness.
- You’re traveling through Canada on the most direct route to Alaska, and a medical emergency occurs. You can visit the Canadian hospital if it’s closer than an American hospital.
- If you are on a cruise ship and are no more than six hours away from a U.S. port, Medicare may cover you if the cruise ship doctor treats you, whether it’s an emergency or not.
As you can see, Original Medicare’s coverage overseas is limited, which is why many snowbirds purchase a Medicare Supplement.
Traveling with a Medicare Supplement
A Medicare Supplement, also known as a Medigap plan, is secondary coverage to Medicare Part A and Part B. There are ten standardized Medigap plans, and six out of the ten provide foreign travel emergency coverage.
Supplemental Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N provide a lifetime benefit of $50,000 for emergency coverage overseas. If you have a medical emergency and are covered by one of these plans, you will first be responsible for a $250 deductible. After you pay the deductible, your Supplement will cover 80% of the Medicare-approved charges. Therefore, you are responsible for the additional 20% coinsurance.
Keep in mind that this is a lifetime benefit of $50,000, so once your plan pays out $50,000, you have used up your benefit. Also, remember this is for emergencies only. Your plan will not pay out for any non-Medicare-approved service or scheduled surgery.
Will a Medicare Advantage plan cover me overseas?
Your Part A and Part B benefits will come from your private insurance carrier when you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Since Medicare Advantage plans vary from zip code to zip code, you will need to check the plan’s Summary of Benefits to know if your plan will cover you overseas.
Many Medicare Advantage plans offer a worldwide emergency coverage benefit. If your plan does include this type of coverage, you will want to ensure you bring your Medicare Advantage insurance card with you so you can present it to the foreign hospital if an emergency occurs.
However, remember since this is American coverage, the hospital is not required to accept it as insurance. In this case, you want to hold on to all your itemized receipts for your care so you can submit them to your Medicare Advantage company for reimbursement. Again, this is for emergencies only and not routine doctor visits.
When choosing a Medicare plan, you will want to consider all the factors, such as how often you plan on traveling, before you submit an application. For more information about traveling overseas with Medicare, visit Medicare.gov.