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Medigap & Traveling

Retirement is a new chapter of life that opens up opportunities away from the nine to five routine. For many retirees, this means finally getting a chance to travel the world carefree. However, healthcare is a genuine necessity, especially later in life. It would be best if you considered your travel plans when selecting Medicare coverage. 

Medicare usually does not cover health care while you are traveling outside the U.S.  It is good to know that Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands are considered part of the U.S. 

While most foreign medical treatment is not covered by Medicare, there are some exceptions.  For instance, Medicare Part B may pay for services you get on board a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S.  However, Medicare will not pay for health care services you get when a ship is more than 6 hours from a U.S. port. 

Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital, doctor, ambulance services, or dialysis you get in a foreign country in some rare cases, as follows:

  • You are in the US when a medical emergency occurs that requires immediate medical attention to prevent disability or death and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest US hospital. 
  • You are traveling through Canada by the most direct route between Alaska and another US state 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 medical condition, regardless of whether an emergency exists.

As stated above, while the general rule is that basic Medicare does not cover foreign medical treatment, except in rare circumstances, , there are options to supplement your Medicare if you plan on traveling to foreign countries. The best option is to add a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan to your Original Medicare coverage to cover emergencies outside of the United States.

Which Medigap Plans cover foreign travel medical emergencies? 

Currently, six plans C, D, F, G, M, and N, offer coverage for medical emergencies outside the U.S. if the medical emergency begins during the first 60 days of your trip and if Medicare does not otherwise cover the care. Medigap pays 80% of the billed charges for certain medically necessary emergency care outside the US after you meet a $250 deductible for the year.   Note that Plans C and F are no longer available for those that become eligible for Medicare coverage after January 1, 2020. Additionally, older plans E, H, I, and J, which are no longer sold but still used by those already enrolled, provide coverage for foreign medical emergencies.

Foreign travel emergency coverage with Medigap policies has a lifetime limit of $50,000. 

What do the plans cover?

Generally, Medigap plans only cover emergencies.  

Traveling is a great experience that people of all ages should enjoy. Before you travel, make sure to speak with your Medigap or insurance agent to find out your coverage details. The Benefit Link has years of experience working with different Medigap plans and is happy to discuss the best Medigap option for your travel plans. Book an appointment to get started! 

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