14 May How Will Medicare Cover Me When I Travel
Many people dream of world travel during their retirement. It’s a time of life when your vacations aren’t limited to two weeks per year so you might be planning to tour America’s national parks or to visit a number of countries in Europe or even contemplating a world cruise.
This naturally leads to the question of how Medicare will cover you when you travel. It’s an important question because an accident or injury while traveling can be quite expensive if you don’t have proper coverage set up. No one wants to come home to a mailbox full of medical bills when they are unsure of whether their medical coverage will help to pay for those bills.
Let’s look at how Medicare covers travel and what you can do to ensure you have adequate health coverage for emergencies when you travel.
Travel Inside the United States
Medicare is a national health insurance program for people aged 65 and older and some younger individuals with disabilities. As such, Medicare’s network spans the United States and includes more than 800,000 providers.
Anyone enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B will be covered for medically necessary healthcare services provided by any doctors or hospitals that accept Medicare. Part A provides inpatient hospital care and Part B provides outpatient medical coverage.
So for example, if you got the flu while you were on vacation and needed to see a Medicare doctor, you could schedule an appointment with any doctor or clinic that accepts Medicare in the city which you are visiting. You would be responsible for the same normal deductibles, copays, and coinsurance that you are responsible for in your hometown. If you are covered by a Medicare supplemental plan, your plan would help to cover these items.
If instead you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, then your coverage would depend on the plan. All Medicare Advantage plans offer worldwide emergency coverage, but some HMO plans will only cover other healthcare services provided by doctors and hospitals in the plan’s network.
Since you would likely be out of network, you’ll want to check with your plan before you travel to find out how your coverage will pay in the event of a need for medical care.
Travel Outside the United States
Original Medicare generally does not provide coverage for any care received outside of the U.S. There are a few very limited exceptions, but they are rare. One example is if your emergency happens in the United States but a foreign hospital is actually closer to you at the time of the emergency. In this instance, Medicare may cover your emergency care.
Another example is if you are traveling to Alaska through Canada and you experience an emergency when a Canadian hospital is actually closer to you than the nearest American hospital.
Outside of these kinds of rare exceptions, Medicare will not cover any care outside the U.S. So if you plan to do some travel outside of the U.S., then there are several ways in which you can improve your coverage.
There are a few Medicare supplement plans that provide up to $50,000 of foreign travel emergency coverage. The key word here is “emergency” because the coverage only covers true life-threatening emergencies or serious injuries requiring emergency care. This coverage is only good for the 60 days that you are traveling outside the United States so if you will be gone longer, then you’ll want to look into some international medical travel coverage.
On the other hand, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, these again have worldwide coverage for emergencies. This care is designed to get you stabilized until you can return to the U.S. for the rest of your care. You will be responsible for the ordinary cost-sharing under the plan, which you can find in the plan’s Summary of Benefits when you enroll.
It never hurts to buy additional travel coverage. Check with your travel agent to see if they can suggest any short-term foreign travel medical plans that will supplement your coverage and give you the peace of mind you seek before you hit the road.