Will Medicare Cover You on Vacation?

Now that we are into the summer travel season,  it’s important to remember that, for the most part, Medicare does not cover health care outside the United States.

Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital care, including a doctor, ambulance services or dialysis outside the US in these very limited circumstances:

  • You are in the US when a medical emergency occurs, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest US hospital that can treat your condition
  • You are traveling to or from Alaska to another state through Canada, by the most direct route, when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest US hospital that can treat the emergency
  • You live in the US and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest US hospital that can treat your condtion, even if it is not an emergency

Medicare may also cover medically necessary health care on board a ship,  as long as you are within the terretorial waters adjoining US land.  Although this seems to contradict the exceptions listed above, Medicare won’t cover health care on a ship that is more than 6 hours away from a US port.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take that trip of a lifetime!

If you have Traditional Medicare and a Medigap policy, check that policy to see if it includes coverage for travel outside the US.  If you have an Advantage Plan, check to see if that plan includes foreign travel.  If not, or for more robust coverage, you can purchase a travel insurance policy that also includes health coverage.

And remember that your Medicare Part D plan won’t cover prescription drugs purchased outside the US, so make sure you fill your prescriptions  before you leave home.

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