by Russell Noga | Updated July 11th, 2023
Are you traveling outside the United States?
Maybe you’re going on an international vacation or a cruise? More than a quarter of Americans experience an injury or get sick when traveling abroad.
Bacterial infections, food-borne illnesses, respiratory infections, and physical injuries are the most common medical emergencies experienced by seniors when on vacation overseas.
Original Medicare Parts A & B assist seniors with paying for their healthcare expenses while they’re at home, but do they offer international coverage? Medigap policies bolster the coverage offered by Medicare Parts A & B, but do they offer the same benefits overseas?
This post provides the information you need to understand Medicare supplement foreign travel coverage. We’ll look at Original Medicare and Medigap benefits for instances where you’re traveling outside of the United States.
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Can You Use Medicare Benefits Anywhere in the US?
Many seniors wonder if their Medicare and Medigap benefits follow them on vacation when they leave the country. Medicare and Medigap cover seniors for any healthcare issues wherever they travel within US borders.
These benefits also apply on visits to territories like American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. If you require medical services in these locations, you can visit any provider accepting Medicare.
Does Medicare Cover Foreign Travel Emergencies?
Medicare Parts A & B don’t cover your healthcare costs outside of the US or its territories. However, there are some exceptions to this rule of thumb. Medicare Part B may pay for healthcare services if you’re on a cruise where the vessel is within US territorial waters adjoining the US mainland.
However, Medicare won’t contribute to healthcare services if the vessel is further than six hours from any major US port. In the following circumstances, Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital, ambulance, and doctor services in foreign countries.
- When a medical emergency occurs, you’re within US borders, and a foreign hospital is closer to your location than a US hospital.
- You’re traveling in Canada without an unreasonable delay on a direct route between Alaska, and other US states when a medical emergency happens. In this case, the Canadian hospital must be closer than the nearest US-based hospital.
- You live in the United States, and a foreign hospital is closer to your residence than the nearest American hospital.
- Medicare covers medically necessary ambulance transport to foreign hospitals with admission for medically necessary inpatient hospital services covered by Medicare.
Understanding Medicare Supplement Foreign Travel Coverage
Medigap plans are available from private healthcare companies in the United States. Medigap plans come in ten options, each offering beneficiaries a different level of coverage. Some offer full or near-comprehensive coverage for Medicare Part A & B services, while others have partial or limited coverage for these costs.
Some Medigap policies pay for medical services not covered by Original Medicare Parts A & B, such as a hospital or doctor visits when traveling abroad. Medigap Plans C, D, F, G, M, & N cover 80% of emergency care costs in foreign countries.
Plan F & G are known for their robust coverage compared to other Medigap plans. Plan F is the only Medigap policy offering “first dollar coverage,” meaning you have no financial responsibility for Part A & B expenses other than your monthly premium. It’s also the only plan offering coverage for the Part B deductible.
However, depending on your circumstances, you may or may not qualify for Plan F.* Plan G also includes coverage for 80% of emergency medical care services outside the United States, as does Medicare Plan N. However, you must require the services within 60 days of leaving the United States.
You’ll also need to pay a $50 deductible to access these benefits, and there’s a lifetime maximum out-of-pocket limit on covered expenses up to $50,000. Some older, obsolete Medigap policies, such as Plans E, H, I, and J, also feature travel coverage benefits in foreign countries.
If you have coverage for emergency medical expenses overseas, you’ll pay out of pocket, and Medicare or Medigap will reimburse you on your return to the United States. Ensuring you receive an itemized bill for your healthcare services is a good idea to stand the best chance of recovering your costs.
While your Medigap plan might cover your emergency medical costs while traveling overseas, buying a travel medical plan from a healthcare insurer is a good idea.
All Medigap plans offer the following benefits.
- Part A coinsurance and hospital costs for up to 365 days after using up Medicare benefits.
- Part A hospice care coinsurance or copayment.
- Part B coinsurance or copayment.
- Blood transfusion costs for the first three pints of blood.
Plans F, G, and N offer additional Medicare Parts A & B benefits.
- Part A deductible.
- Part B excess charges (Plan N doesn’t cover these charges).
- Skilled nursing facility care coinsurance.
- 80% of emergency healthcare costs when traveling outside the US for 60 days. ($250 deductible and $50,000 maximum apply).
- Unlimited coverage for all out-of-pocket costs.
*Plan F is only available for seniors qualifying for Medicare before January 1, 2020. If you’re eligible for Medicare after this date, go with Plan G for near-comprehensive coverage. The only thing it doesn’t cover that Plan F does is the Part B deductible. However, the savings on monthly premiums for Plan G over Plan F will usually account for the costs of the Part B deductible.
It’s important to note Medicare and Medigap won’t cover the cost of preventative care services when traveling. You won’t have coverage for physiotherapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture treatments. In general, Medicare and Medigap policies don’t cover the cost of these services at home or offer coverage for prescriptions, private-duty nursing stays at nursing homes, or vision, dental, and hearing services.
However, some providers offer add-on packages or discounted rates on these services. Call our agents, and we’ll find you a provider offering these additional benefits in your plan or at discounted rates.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does Medicare Supplement provide coverage for foreign travel?
Yes, some Medicare Supplement plans offer coverage for foreign travel emergencies. These plans provide coverage for emergency medical care needed while traveling outside the United States.
Call Us for More Information on Medicare Supplement Foreign Travel Coverage
Our fully licensed agents are available at 1-888-891-0229 for a free quote and consultation on Medigap policies and their coverage during overseas travel. If you can’t call us right now, leave your details on our contact form, and we’ll get a Medigap expert from our team to call you back.
Russell Noga is the CEO of Medisupps.com, an online Medicare Agency and resource center helping Medicare beneficiaries learn about Medicare, Medigap and Part D drug plans, and Medicare Advantage plans since 2009. Russell is licensed in all 50 states and has been featured as a keynote speaker, and author of several publications, along with hosting the very popular Medisupps.com Youtube channel.