Original Medicare does not provide coverage for healthcare that you receive outside the United States.
Some Medicare Advantage plans or Medigap plans offer coverage for emergency medical care abroad.
If you don’t have a plan with coverage, you will have to pay the full cost of your foreign medical care.
If you do have coverage for healthcare abroad, you will have to submit a claim to your plan yourself.
Medicare does not offer healthcare coverage when you are traveling or living outside the United States as a general rule, although there are some specific exceptions.
Medicare coverage abroad is based on how close you are to a U.S. hospital and what your medical needs are. Your coverage can also vary based on what type of Medicare or supplemental plan you have.
Original Medicare — consisting of Medicare Parts A and B — covers basic inpatient and outpatient care in the United States. While Original Medicare does not cover international healthcare services, you can add Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap). Many of these plans offer some level of coverage in case you need to receive healthcare abroad.
There are also a number of Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans that offer some type of foreign coverage. Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance products that replace your Original Medicare. These plans usually include additional services beyond what Original Medicare offers.
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If you have a medical emergency in a foreign country, you have some options for care — even with Original Medicare.
Original Medicare will cover your healthcare expenses if you are in three very specific situations:
- You are in the United States, but the nearest hospital that can best treat your condition is located in a foreign country.
- You are traveling in Canada and are closer to a Canadian hospital than a U.S. hospital. Specific criteria may be used to determine your eligibility, based on where you are traveling in Canada.
- You live in the United States but your home is closer to a foreign hospital than a U.S. hospital. In this situation, you may be able to get general and emergency medical care at the foreign hospital and have it covered by Medicare.
If you fall into one of these specific categories, Medicare may offer coverage at its regular levels — with you paying 20% of the Medicare-approved cost plus any Part B deductibles.
If you are a frequent traveler and want a peace of mind when it comes to your medical care abroad, you have several options — for a price.
Medigap plans can be added to Original Medicare and may provide coverage for emergency healthcare outside the United States. Exact coverage depends on your individual plan, but the Medigap plans that offer foreign care options are:
Plans E, H, I, and J can’t be purchased anymore, but people who were enrolled in these plans before June 1, 2010, can keep their coverage. Plan C and F are no longer available to new enrollments but are available if you had Medicare before January 1, 2020. With most of these plans, the insurance company will pay 80% of the charges billed to you after you meet a $250 deductible. There may also be limits to coverage based on how long you have been traveling and how many claims you have filed. Medigap policies have a $50,000 cap on lifetime coverage for foreign medical care.
You can’t add a Medigap plan to a Medicare Advantage plan, but some Medicare Advantage plans include coverage for foreign medical emergencies. Check with your plan when enrolling if this is something you need, and be sure to check your coverage before travelling.
Non-Medicare coverage options
If you don’t want to add a Medigap plan or enroll in a particular Medicare Advantage plan just to get foreign travel coverage, you may want to consider other types of travel insurance that offer medical coverage.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers resources to help you choose a travel health insurance plan, and advice on seeking help abroad from sources like U.S. embassies and consulates.
Travel healthcare plans are private products that you purchase just for the duration of your trip, and usually cost just a few dollars per day, according to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT).
IAMAT offers tips for choosing a travel health plan including:
- Consider your activities. Many plans don’t offer coverage for injury or illness related to high-risk activities like skiing or skydiving.
- Your health conditions. Different plans may not be able to offer you coverage if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions.
- Check your limits. The cheapest plan you find might seem like a good option, but these plans usually have lower coverage limits, like only covering $10,000 in expenses.
- Where you can get care. Consider where you’re traveling and whether your travel insurance company has restrictions on where you can receive care. Some companies limit your care to specific networks or healthcare facilities.
- Your age. While you may still be able to buy a travel insurance plan if you are over age 60, your costs may be higher.
Depending on where you are traveling, you may also want to consider plans that offer coverage for medical evacuations in case you need to leave the area you are traveling for additional care.
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