How to Get Medicare Coverage Overseas

Know Your Options and Get Covered

Medicare overseas and with foreign travel
Medicare may not pay for healthcare expenses when you travel. Colin Anderson / Blend Images / Getty Images

Medicare covers a lot but it does not cover everything. One thing it may not cover is healthcare when you travel out of the country. Considering many people enjoy travel during retirement, this is not welcome news. Are you prepared for a hefty medical bill when you finally go on the vacation of a lifetime?

Medicare's Limited Healthcare Coverage

Medicare Part A and Part B are collectively referred to as Original Medicare.

Original Medicare only covers healthcare expenses out of the country in the following situations:

  • You receive care in a foreign hospital because it is closer than an American one, even if you are in the United States when the medical emergency occurs.
  • You receive care in a foreign hospital that is closer to your home than an American hospital.
  • You receive care in a Canadian hospital when traveling directly between Alaska and the contiguous United States.
  • You are on a cruise ship within six hours of a U.S. port or U.S. territory waters.

That still leaves a lot of potential travel incidents uncovered.

Consider Medicare Supplement Insurance

If you have Original Medicare, you have the option to purchase additional coverage via a Medicare Supplement Plan. These plans, also known as Medigap plans, are available through private insurance companies but are standardized by the federal government. All plans of a certain type cover the same things.

Certain Medicare Supplement Plans add a foreign travel coverage to your benefit. These include Medigap plans C, D (not to be confused with a Medicare Part D plan), F, G, M, and N. Some policies with foreign travel coverage -- plans E, H, I, and J -- are no longer for sale to new enrollees but are still available to enrollees who signed up for them before June 2010.

If you are planning on foreign travel during retirement, you may want to consider Medicare Supplement Insurance. Like any plan, there are limitations.

  • Foreign travel benefits are for medical emergencies only.
  • Foreign travel benefits will only cover a medical emergency that occurs within your first 60 days of travel.
  • You will pay a $250 deductible before the benefit kicks in and then only after Original Medicare declines to pay.
  • After paying a deductible, you will pay a 20 percent coinsurance for care received.
  • There is a $50,000 limit to how much a Medigap plan will spend over your lifetime.

Be careful. Medicare Supplement Insurance can be tricky. You could find yourself in trouble if you have a pre-existing medical condition, especially if you miss the initial enrollment period. You can avoid paying higher premiums for one of these plans by signing up at the right time.

Take Advantage of Medicare Advantage

In lieu of Original Medicare, you may elect to sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan. There are pros and cons to making such a choice. One benefit could be the addition of emergency foreign travel coverage to your benefits.

Medicare Advantage plans, like Medigap plans, are offered through private insurance companies.

The federal government requires these plans to include everything Original Medicare does but they can also choose to cover more. If you anticipate traveling outside of the country, you may want to look closely at Medicare Advantage plans that offer additional coverage for foreign travel.

Purchase a Foreign Travel Policy

There are many private insurance companies available that offer short-term travel insurance. Not all coverage will be the same. You need to consider what these plans cover, how long the coverage lasts and what they will cost. Using your current health as a guide, you can decide how much coverage you will need.

That said, you never know what could happen. No one wants to ruin their trip with an ankle fracture.


Elder Law Answers. Getting Medicare While Traveling or Living Overseas. Updated October 12, 2015. How to Compare Medigap Policies. Accessed February 22, 2016. Medicare Coverage Outside the United States. Revised January 2016.

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