Does Medicare cover medical expenses during international travel?
Updated: Sep 14
Medicare covers emergency medical services received when you are traveling within the United States. But does Medicare cover expenses during international travel?
With a few very rare and limited exceptions, Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover healthcare services received outside of the United States.
If you have Original Medicare and have also purchased a Medicare Supplement plan (also called a Medigap policy,) your international coverage and the limitations of that coverage will depend on the policy in which you are enrolled. Here in Minnesota there are two levels of Medigap coverage: the Basic plan, which generally does not offer international coverage, and an Extended Basic plan that offers some coverage for emergency medical care received outside of the United States. However, before you travel internationally, it is a good idea to review the coverage offered by your Medicare Supplement plan to understand what is and is not covered, and what your cost-sharing risk might be. There is also a likelihood that you will have to pay out-of-pocket for emergency services received outside of the United States, and will have to follow specific guidelines to be reimbursed by your policy after you return. Some Medicare Advantage plans available to Minnesotans may also offer limited coverage for emergency medical care received outside of the United States, but it's important to review the details of your specific plan. And even if your plan has international benefits, you may still be responsible for paying out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.
Regardless of whether you have Original Medicare alone or are enrolled in a Medigap policy or a Medicare Advantage plan, it's a good idea to carefully review and understand the details of your plan's international coverage before you travel.
And no matter what coverage you have, it is always a good idea to consider purchasing travel health insurance (not related to Medicare) before you leave the country. These travel health policies cover unexpected medical expenses that may arise, and usually provide a broader level of coverage than what you will get with a Medicare supplement or Advantage plan. Most also help protect your travel investment by offering benefits that help you recoup some of your costs if you have to cancel or alter your trip due to illness or injury. They offer easy access to medical assistance and services, such as a 24/7 support line and/or travel arrangements to get you to the nearest appropriate medical facility. And finally, these separate policies offer peace of mind. Instead of worrying about what your Medicare coverage will and won't do, you will rest easy knowing you have comprehensive coverage for any eventuality.
If you have Medicare coverage and need help understanding your international coverage benefit, contact us today. If you are interested in reviewing quotes for your upcoming travel, visit Geo Blue, one of the nation's leading providers of travel health insurance, using this link.