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Can I Use My Medicare Coverage Overseas?

"Can I Use My Medicare Coverage Overseas?" text over image of suitcase with plane flying to beach

Wondering if you can use your Medicare coverage overseas? Some supplemental insurance plans allow this flexibility. Call our licensed agents today at (800) 950-0608 to learn about Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans in your area that meet your needs.

Just the Essentials…

  • Original Medicare plans (Parts A and B) will not cover healthcare outside of the United States or U.S. territories, except for in certain circumstances.

  • Some Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans allow you to use your Medicare coverage overseas.

Will Medicare Cover Your Medical Expenses if You’re Traveling Abroad?

As you approach retirement age, you begin to look forward to the time you’ll have to pursue your passions. For many of you reading this today, traveling is likely a major passion that you’ve held off on until now. After all, who doesn’t want to take some time to see the world?

There’s a lot of planning that goes into a trip overseas. When it comes to issues related to your health, you’ll want to know whether or not you’re covered by your health insurance if something happens and you require medical attention. If you’re covered by Medicare, you’re likely asking one of the two following questions before you head out on a trip:

  • “Does Medicare cover you overseas?”
  • “Does Medicare work overseas?”

Today, we’re going to look into whether or not you can use your Medicare coverage overseas to cover healthcare-related expenses.

Can Original Medicare Cover Medical Costs Overseas?

If your only form of health insurance is Original Medicare – Part A and Part B – then you will likely have a tough time getting any medical expenses incurred outside of the United States or its territories covered. This is because Original Medicare generally does not cover any medical costs outside of the United States.

Only in certain instances will Original Medicare pay for healthcare services that you receive in a foreign country. The instances in which Original Medicare may cover healthcare services that you receive in a foreign country include:

  • You’re in the United States when the emergency occurs, and a foreign hospital is closer to you than the nearest U.S.-based hospital that can treat you.
  • You’re traveling through Canada by the most direct route between Alaska and another U.S. state when a medical emergency occurs, and a Canadian hospital is closer to you than the nearest U.S.-based hospital that can treat you.
  • You live in the U.S. and a foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat you, regardless of whether or not an emergency exists.

In any other case, you will typically be required to pay 100 percent of the medical costs that you incur under Original Medicare. There may be some instances in which Medicare Part B will cover necessary healthcare services that you receive if you’re on a cruise ship, but again, there are limitations, such as:

  • The doctor aboard must be allowed under certain laws to provide medical services on the cruise ship.
  • The ship is docked in a U.S. port or is no more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port when you receive the services, regardless of whether or not you’re in an emergency situation.

If you’re more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port, then Medicare Part B will not cover the medical services that you receive.

What About My Medicare Advantage (Part C) Plan? Will it Cover Services That Original Medicare Will Not?

Medicare Part C plans, or Medicare Advantage plans, must follow the rules and guidelines set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Therefore, many Medicare Advantage plans may not provide coverage for medical care received overseas. There are, however, some Medicare Advantage plans that provide Medicare coverage abroad, but with a limited scope.

Medicare Advantage plans that allow for Medicare coverage in foreign countries may impose higher costs for the privilege. For example, your Part C plan may cover healthcare services you receive after breaking your arm in England, but you may end up paying a higher copay or coinsurance rate for those services. In some instances, you may even require prior authorization to receive Medicare coverage abroad under your Medicare Advantage plan.

In any case, if you want to take a trip overseas and you’re wanting Medicare Advantage insurance to cover what Original Medicare will not, speak with your plan provider. They may be able to help you with a variety of options, including travel health insurance, that will ensure that you have adequate medical coverage when traveling abroad.

A Medigap Supplement Plan Can Also Help

While Original Medicare and most Medicare Advantage plans provide little to no Medicare coverage in foreign countries, one often overlooked plan type may be a major help to you. In many cases, Medigap policies will cover you if you have a medical emergency in a foreign country

More specifically, Medigap policies C through J offer travel emergency coverage. This benefit typically applies only during the first two months (60 days) of any trip, but if you plan on being out of the country for less than 60 days, this should not be an issue. The Medigap travel emergency benefit covers 80 percent of emergency care you receive outside of the country. 

To receive a Medigap policy with travel emergency coverage, a $250 deductible and $50,000 lifetime maximum apply. If you don’t plan on traveling often and just want a helpful option in case of an emergency overseas, Medigap policies C through J may be just what you need.

Don’t Let Yourself Go Without Proper Medical Coverage When Traveling Abroad

While it may be tough to use Medicare coverage abroad, options exist to ensure that you receive the care you need when traveling overseas. For instance, your insurance provider may offer comprehensive travel health insurance plans in addition to your Medicare Advantage plan. It also bears repeating that Medigap plans can often be helpful as well.

Always speak to your health insurance provider regarding options for Medicare coverage in foreign countries. You may be surprised at the types of assistance you are eligible to receive!

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