Traveling with Medicare: What You Need to Know

Emergencies are unexpected, no matter where you are. Know what to expect from Medicare when traveling in and out of the country.

Medicare and Traveling: The Basics

Before you book your next travel destination, ensure you’re prepared for any unexpected medical emergencies. The type of Medicare plan you use, as well as where you travel, will affect your coverage.

For example, because Original Medicare is federal health insurance, you can expect coverage across the 50 states and U.S. territories, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, serve specific areas. Your vacation destination might be outside of that service area, so be sure to understand where your Advantage plan starts and ends or you might find yourself knee-deep in medical bills.

Outside the country, Medicare coverage is limited for both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. Advantage plans are required to cover emergency and urgent care in the U.S. as long as you’re in the service area of the plan, but don’t have that same requirement outside the country. Medigap plans may cover services not included in your current Medicare plans. Read on to learn when you’re covered and when you’re not as you travel inside and outside the country.

 

Medicare coverage when traveling domestically

Medicare covers services from sea to shining sea—and beyond. Not only does Medicare take care of your medical business in all 50 U.S. states, it assumes coverage in U.S. territories as well. Whether you’re sailing off the beaches of Puerto Rico, learning the haka on the islands of American Samoa, or visiting the Capitol in the District of Columbia, Medicare has you covered. 

Domestic travel isn’t complicated for Original Medicare, though Medicare Advantage may have some limitations. Every Medicare Advantage plan has specific service areas and health insurance networks. Only certain locations, doctors, and hospitals are covered under a Medicare Advantage plan. Because each plan is different, call your provider ahead of time to ensure that your Medicare Advantage plan provides coverage in your travel destination.

Medigap plans cover expenses not included in your Advantage or Original Medicare plans. Like Medicare, Medigap offers coverage just about anywhere in the United States. It will help supplement any copayments, coinsurances, or deductibles that your Medicare plan doesn’t cover. Some Medigap plans also include prescription drug coverage, similar to some Medicare Advantage plans.

Find the plan that best suits your domestic travel needs.

  • Original Medicare:
    When traveling in the U.S., Original Medicare coverage is comprehensive. As long as you’re in one of the states or U.S. territories, you can be sure that Original Medicare will cover at least part of it.
  • Medicare Advantage:
    Although some Medicare Advantage plans have limitations regarding coverage, they still can cover quite a bit of real estate. Depending on the plan you choose, you may or may not have coverage at certain hospitals or with certain physicians. Make sure you contact your provider to see where your Medicare Advantage plan is accepted.
  • Medigap:
    Medigap provides supplemental coverage for services that your Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans don’t cover. Like Original Medicare, there aren’t any restrictions that would stop Medigap from filling in the gap when traveling within the U.S.
  • Part D Prescription Coverage:
    You can pair your Medicare Advantage plan or Medigap plan with a prescription drug plan. When traveling domestically, coverage is relatively straightforward—just ensure that your plan is accepted where you’re going.

Medicare coverage when traveling internationally

If you’re looking to travel North or South of the border or across the pond, Medicare can get complicated. Original Medicare won’t pay for most supplies and services outside the United States. There are very specific exemptions to this rule, leaving little room for coverage in a foreign place.

Be sure to research Medicare Advantage providers during AEP, as some Advantage plans offer international coverage. Not all Medicare Advantage plans are created equal, but Aetna, for example, offers some of the best international coverage out there. From emergency care to urgent care, Aetna’s Medicare Advantage plans have you in mind when you travel abroad.  

Unfortunately, prescription drug coverage is also not available outside of the U.S., even when paired with a Medicare Advantage plan. Some Medigap plans help cover services overseas, but you must meet particular prerequisites to receive additional help from Medigap in a foreign country. Medigap coverage may depend upon how long you have been in the foreign country, the type of service you are receiving, and the payment of a $250 deductible. 

Medicare’s lack of international coverage may seem dire, but all is not lost when it comes to health coverage overseas. Although separate from Medicare, international travel insurance pays for emergency and routine medical services outside the U.S. Each travel insurance plan is different, so plan ahead based on potential needs. 

International travel is more enjoyable when you know you’re covered. Find the plan that puts your health first.

  • Original Medicare:
    In most situations, Medicare won’t pay for health care or supplies you get outside the U.S., with few exceptions.
  • Medicare Advantage:
    Unlike Original Medicare, there are Medicare Advantage plans that offer comprehensive international coverage. Take a closer look at Aetna Medicare Advantage plans for example.
  • Medigap:
    Medigap covers foreign travel emergency care if it begins during the first 60 days of your trip. Medigap also pays 80% of the billed charges for certain medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S. after you meet a $250 deductible for the year.
  • Part D Prescription Coverage:
    If you purchase prescription drugs outside of the U.S., do not expect Medicare drug plans to cover them. You’ll need to get travel insurance or Medigap* to potentially help pay those expenses.

* Medigap will only potentially cover 80% of medically-necessary prescription drugs that are administered in a hospital during a medically-necessary stay.

Quick Medicare & Travel Guide 

The following chart shows you which Medicare plans cover what services both domestically and internationally. Remember: if you have questions or need extra help enrolling in a new plan with better travel coverage, call 833-716-0673 to speak with a licensed Medicare agent.

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