How Does Foreign Travel Work With Medicare Supplement?

For many seniors, travel is an exciting part of a retirement plan. Whether you’re planning a continuous exploration of faraway lands or a simple one-week trip abroad, foreign travel is a reality for many after leaving the nine-to-five lifestyle behind. But, what about your health care needs? Will your Medicare coverage come with you on your journey?

Typically, Original Medicare does not cover health care you receive while traveling outside of the United States. However, some Medicare Supplement plans do.

Foreign Travel Emergency Care—Medicare Supplement Plans That Offer Coverage

Some Medicare Supplement Insurance plans offer foreign travel coverage—medical benefits as you travel out of the country. The 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa are considered part of the United States—domestic travel, and foreign travel benefits are not necessary.

For all other travel outside of the United States, foreign travel emergency care coverage is provided by six available supplement plans: Plan C, D, F, G, M and N. If you purchased Medicare Supplement insurance prior to 2010, and you have plan E, H, I or J, your foreign travel benefits will still be valid, even though these plans are no longer offered for sale.

Medicare Supplement and Travel—What Is Covered

With any of the above plans, you will have foreign travel emergency care that begins during the first 60 days of your trip. Your supplement plan will pay 80 percent of the billed charges for necessary medical care outside of the U.S. after you pay a $250 deductible. There is a lifetime limit of $50,000 for all foreign travel emergency care.

If you’re undecided as to whether or not you should buy coverage, here’s something to think about: Medicare Supplement plans are available with no underwriting only during your Initial Enrollment period. If you think you may be traveling abroad during retirement, you may want to plan ahead by choosing a plan that offers foreign travel benefits.

In Rare Cases, Original Medicare Pays for Foreign Care

Typically, Medicare does not pay for treatment outside of the United States and Medicare Prescription Drug plans do not cover medications purchased abroad. However, in some rare cases, Medicare may pay up to 80 percent for services covered under Original Medicare even while you are out of the country. Note, foreign hospitals are not required to submit claims to Medicare. More than likely you will need to submit an itemized bill to be reimbursed.

Original Medicare may pay for inpatient care, ambulance services or dialysis treatment outside of the U.S. if:

  • You are in the United States when a medical emergency occurs and a foreign hospital is closer than a U.S. hospital.
  • You are traveling through Canada en route to Alaska and a Canadian hospital is closer than a U.S. hospital.
  • You are on a ship within territorial waters adjoining lands of the U.S., but within 6 hours of a U.S. port.
  • You live in the U.S. and have a medical emergency, but a foreign hospital is closer than a U.S. hospital.