Life is good! You’re enjoying your retirement. You have original Medicare along with a Medicare supplement plan and a Part D prescription drug plan. Medically all your bases are covered and you’ve decided that now would be a great time to take that dream vacation. Does Europe tempt you? How about Tahiti? A Caribbean cruise aboard luxury liner?
You plan your trip, make your reservations, arrange for someone to take care of your dog and are all set to go. And if you get sick or have a medical emergency, you expect Medicare to kick in. Unfortunately, you will be disappointed. In most cases, if you’re outside the U.S., original Medicare will not pay up. Medicare only covers travel in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Island, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Marina Islands.
The Bad News
On a cruise ship, you may be covered if the ship’s doctor is allowed to provide medical services under certain laws and the ship is within six hours of a United States port. If you’re farther out to sea than that, Medicare will not cover services.
In rare cases, Medicare will pay for inpatient hospital services you receive in Canada or Mexico, such as if you suffer a medical emergency in the United States and a hospital in Canada or Mexico is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital. Or if you are traveling through Canada, using the most direct route between another state and Alaska and need emergency treatment, you may be covered if the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital able to treat the emergency.
The Good News
However, there is some good news. Even though original Medicare will not cover foreign travel, your Medicare supplement plan may. If you have Medicare Supplement Plan C, D, F, G, M, or N they will provide some coverage. Plans E, H, J, and I are no longer available but if you were grandfathered in those plans provide coverage for foreign travel emergencies. The coverage only applies to the first 60 days of foreign travel. There is a $250.00 deductible and then an 80/20 split, with the plan paying 80% and you pay the other 20%, up to a lifetime maximum of $50,000.
If you are, planning extended travel (more than 60 days) or you are concerned about the $50,000 limit, you may want to consider a separate travel insurance policy.
Note: If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan check with your plan to see if they provide any foreign travel benefit.
You can download the booklet “Medicare Coverage Outside the United States” by going to my Resources page and clicking on the booklet image. (it is towards the bottom of the page) The official Medicare booklet will open in another window, then you will have the option of reading it or you can download it to your computer.
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