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  • Writer's pictureNatalie M

Does Medicare cover medical expenses during international travel?


seniors at the airport getting ready for international travel

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 does not cover healthcare services received outside of the United States. And even if you have added a Medigap plan or enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that offers some protection if you travel out of the country, you are not likely to find it sufficient. Foreign countries are not interested in billing the United States government or your insurance company for health care you receive when you are visiting. And even when you have some international protection, it is extremely limited in scope. That's why it's always a good idea to purchase travel health insurance for your trip whenever you leave the United States.


What international coverage does my Extended Basic Medigap plan provide?


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, there is 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. And the coverage is limited to 80% of the costs you incur, so you will still have to pay 20%. What's more, there will be limitations on what medical services will be covered, and it can be difficult to sort all of that out during a medical emergency.

What international coverage does my Medicare Advantage plan provide?

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. And again, you will likely be paying for your medical costs out of pocket and sorting out reimbursement details when you return home.


Seniors looking for health care coverage

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.


What type of coverage is best for Medicare beneficiaries when it comes to international travel?


It is always a good idea to purchase travel health insurance (not related to Medicare) before you leave the country. These travel health policies cover unexpected medical expenses that may arise, and provide a much 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.


senior women traveling to the beach

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.



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