Will Medicare Cover Me When I Travel?

By Medicare Benefits - September 22, 2020

Whether by sea, land or sky, we love to travel and explore our world. This is even more true during retirement when we may have more free time to spend seeing new sights and catching up with loved ones. While there’s a lot that goes into planning a trip, we want you to take a moment to consider the possibility of needing medical care while traveling outside of the United States.

Will Medicare Cover Me When I Travel?

Whether or not Medicare or a Medicare supplement policy will cover you when you travel depends on where you are and the specific circumstances surrounding your medical needs. As a general guideline, Original Medicare will not cover recipients outside of the United States; however, there are a few exceptions.

First, if you’re on a cruise ship and have a medical emergency, you might be able to receive covered care as long as your vessel is no more than six hours away from a United States port. Second, if you’re traveling through Canada to either get to Alaska or return from Alaska, your treatment at a Canadian medical provider might be covered by Medicare. Finally, if you’re in the United States and the nearest medical facility is in Canada or Mexico, your care may be covered.

How Can I Get Medical Insurance While Traveling?

Because Original Medicare doesn’t really offer much in the way of coverage outside of special circumstances for travelers, you might want to consider a Medigap, or Medicare Supplement plan. Some Medicare Supplement policies include coverage for medical needs you may have when you are abroad. If you travel outside of the US regularly, you may want to consider purchasing a Medigap policy.

When you are 65 years old and enrolled in Part B, you will have a 6-month Medigap enrollment period. During this period, you have buy any Medigap policy sold in your state. After that period ends, you can be subject to medical underwriting, and may be turned down or charged more due to pre-existing conditions.

Another option is to look into traveler’s insurance if you’re going to be away from the United States. Many private insurance providers sell temporary medical insurance policies that help to defray your costs if you’re visiting another country and require medical care. Because these policies are issued through private insurers, they are not affiliated with the Medicare program and may have specific restrictions that are not commonly found in Medicare policies.

Can I Receive Medical Transportation Coverage?

Just like at home, Medicare does not cover the expense of traveling to or from medical appointments or hospitals unless the trip is made by an ambulance service during an emergency. So even if you are able to receive covered care while traveling outside of the United States, your transportation costs will not be explicitly covered by Medicare. The only exception to this may be if you are in need of airlift transportation by a medical helicopter or airplane from a location that is inaccessible by traditional emergency vehicles.

If you’re concerned about the possibility of needing medical transportation coverage, there are private services available that usually sell memberships. These services are not, however, covered by or affiliated with Medicare, and Medicare does not cover the cost of your membership fee. You will also not be able to file for reimbursement of fees from these services.

You might, however, be able to access discounts on such services or memberships through a Medicare Advantage plan.

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