Summertime often means travel time, especially once you hit the golden years of retirement. Before you travel outside of your home health care network, though, make sure you have a plan for coverage at your destination.
Depending on how you receive your Medicare benefits, whether it is through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan, you might be on the hook for higher costs for medical services while you travel. It also depends on your travel destination, as Medicare coverage varies for foreign travel versus domestic travel (travel within the United States).
What Does Medicare Cover for Foreign Travel?
If you are traveling outside of the United States, prepare to get travel insurance or to purchase a Medigap plan that helps to cover care in foreign countries. Original Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B do not provide coverage outside the U.S. except in certain emergency situations.
Some Medicare Advantage plans might provide for coverage if you are traveling outside the U.S. Check your MA plan details to be sure what is covered, and what is not.
Here are some of the situations where Medicare might cover you if you need care in a foreign country (foreign being outside the United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands or Northern Mariana Islands):
- If you require medical services on board a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S., as long as it is within six hours of a U.S.
- If you are traveling through Canada on the most direct route, without unreasonable delay, between Alaska and another U.S. state, and the closest hospital that can treat the emergency is in Canada.
- If you live in the United States, and the foreign hospital that can treat your medical condition is closer than the U.S. hospital.
Some Medigap plans may offer emergency medical coverage when you are outside of the country. Standard Medigap Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N provide some foreign travel emergency health care coverage when you travel outside the U.S. Medicare Part D does not provide any coverage outside of the U.S.
Does Medicare Cover Travel Within the U.S.?
If you are on Original Medicare (Parts A, B and D) and are traveling within the United States, you are covered for care at any hospital or doctor that accepts Medicare.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you are covered for emergency care anywhere in the U.S. You might not, however, have coverage for routine care once you travel outside of your local health network. Be sure to complete necessary medical appointments before you travel, and check your MA plan to know your coverage details for using doctors and hospitals outside of your network providers.
Do I Bring My Medicare Card With Me When I Travel?
If you require medical services while you are traveling, it will be important to prove your Medicare coverage. Be sure to have at least your Medicare ID numbers on hand, so that providers can verify your plan and coverage details. You can bring your Medicare card as long as you keep it safe. An alternative is to keep a photo of your Medicare card on your phone or tablet, so that you can access the information without having to carry around your physical card.
If you have any questions about your Medicare coverage and would like help understanding your plan and benefit details, consult with a senior health plan specialist in your area. They can help you review your Medicare plan so that you better understand your coverage before traveling. They can also help you with Medigap / Medicare supplement plans to help complete coverage.