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Does Medicare Cover Overseas Travel Emergencies?

If you’re a Medicare beneficiary and like to travel, it’s a good idea to make sure you have health coverage in case of an emergency. While Original Medicare coverage may not be available outside the United States, some Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans may include this coverage.

Original Medicare and travel coverage

For the most part, Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, doesn’t cover medical services or items you get outside the country. Medicare considers the United States to include the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

There are some exceptions:

  • If you live in the U.S. and the closest hospital that can treat your condition is outside the country, Medicare might cover care in that hospital, even when it’s not an emergency.
  • If you have a medical emergency while traveling between Alaska and another state by the most direct route possible and as fast as reasonably possible, Medicare might cover care in a Canadian hospital. The Canadian hospital would have to be closer to you than the closest U.S. hospital.
  • If you have a medical emergency in the U.S., but the closest hospital is outside the country, Medicare might cover care in the foreign hospital.
  • Dialysis may be covered in emergency situations outside the U.S., but not routine dialysis.
  • In some situations, Medicare may cover emergency medical treatment on a cruise ship. The ship must be no more than six hours from a U.S. port, and the doctor must be authorized by law to provide the treatment.

Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) doesn’t cover medications purchased outside the U.S.

Medigap plans and travel coverage

Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance is optional insurance you can get from a private insurance company. Medigap plans pay some of your Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) costs, such as coinsurance and copayments.

In 47 states, there are 10 standardized Medigap plans, each one named with a letter (such as Plan M). Every plan includes the same benefits as other plans of the same name, so that a Medigap Plan M offers the same coverage no matter where you buy it. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have their own standardized Medigap policies.

Some Medigap plans cover emergency medical services you receive outside the United States. Medigap Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N pay 80% of your costs for certain emergency care in a foreign country if your situation meets all of the following conditions:

  • The care you receive is medically necessary.
  • The care begins during the first 60 days of your travel.
  • Medicare doesn’t otherwise cover this care.
  • You’ve met your Medigap deductible for the year.

If you still have a Medigap Plan E, H, I, or J, these plans also cover overseas medical emergencies, but these plans are no longer sold.

A Medigap plan with emergency medical coverage outside the U.S. has a lifetime maximum coverage limit of $50,000.

It’s a good idea to contact your Medigap insurance company to ask for details about travel coverage. You may also decide to purchase separate travel insurance.

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