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Medicare and Foreign Travel: What You Should Know

Sep 29, 2016

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My husband and I are planning to tour Asia for three months. Will Medicare cover any medical issues that arise while we are there?

The best answer is: Don’t count on Medicare for any medical coverage while you’re outside of the United States or its territories. There are some exceptions in which Medicare will cover services but they are very rare. For example, if you are traveling a direct route, without unreasonable delay, between Alaska and another state, and the closest hospital that can treat you is in Canada, Medicare would cover emergency medical services.

Medicare will also pay for medical care on a cruise ship if:

  • the ship is registered to the U.S,
  • the doctor is registered with the Coast Guard, and
  • the ship is in a U.S. port or within six hours of arrival at or departure from a U.S. port.

So, what are your options while traveling internationally? 

  • Some Medigap policies offer coverage for medical emergencies in a foreign land. These plans cover 80% of the cost of emergency care abroad during the first 60 days of a trip with a deductible of no more than $250 and a lifetime maximum of $50,000. (Emergency care means care that is needed immediately because of an injury or an illness of sudden and unexpected onset.) Given today’s medical costs, that's not great coverage.
  • Some Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage for foreign travel, usually for an additional premium. Check details with a plan representative.
  • Travel medical insurance provides coverage for medical emergencies and evacuations. It does not cover trip cancellation costs. Know that pre-existing medical conditions can affect coverage. Some plans will offer a waiver for those who buy the policy within 10 to 21 days of making the first trip payment, insure all non-refundable expenses prior to departure, and are considered medically able to travel when purchasing the policy. It is also possible to purchase a pre-existing condition waiver.

When traveling internationally, remember these three tips.

1. Don't count on Medicare.

2. Plan ahead for medical emergencies. 

3. Bon Voyage!



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