Having a vacation on a cruise ship is fun (at least when there’s no global pandemic to worry about!).  

You can take in the beauty of the ocean (and maybe some of the creatures that live in it). Eat delicious delicacies prepared by 5-star chefs. And, of course, travel to some amazing destinations.  

As fun as all that may sound, what if you get sick and need medical attention while on a cruise? Well, the good news is there are doctors aboard the ship that can help. The bad news is that getting medical attention aboard a ship may be expensive.  

So a common question many people have is, “Does Medicare cover Cruise Ship Claims?” In this article, we answer that question in clear, plain English.  

Does Medicare Cover Cruise Ship Claims? 

The short answer is it depends. In many cases, Medicare will not cover the cost of your medical expenses while you’re on a cruise ship. That said, there may be some situations where these costs will be covered. Below we’ll take a closer look at this to see when you might be able to get Medicare to pay for your cruise ship medical expenses.  

Original Medicare 

Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) coverage for cruise ship medical expenses comes down to 2 main things.  

Where the cruise ship is and what type of care you get.  

First thing to know is that Original Medicare does not provide coverage for medical expenses when you are not in US territory. So, if you are on a ship that’s in international waters, you will not get coverage from Original Medicare. 

However, Original Medicare may cover the costs of cruise ship medical expenses if the cruise ship you are on is within US territories. This includes the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  

While at sea, Original Medicare may pay for medical care if the cruise ship you are on is in US territorial waters. This means the ship is in a US port or within six hours of arrival at or departure from a US port.  

So basically, if you’re in US waters, Medicare may cover medical expenses. If you’re in international waters, they will not.  

The other part of this is whether you care you get is medically necessary. If it is and you are in US waters, the doctor should submit a claim to Medicare. If it’s not medically necessary, Medicare will not pay no matter where the ship is at the time. 

Medicare Advantage 

Everything above also applies to Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans. They must cover everything Original Medicare covers.  

But they may also offer some additional benefits. There are some Medicare Advantage plans that do cover medical care if you are outside of the U.S. If you travel a lot, it’s a good idea to look into plans that provide this sort of coverage.   

Exactly what Advantage plans cover and what the costs for this coverage is vary from plan to plan. So it pays shop around to find a plan that meets your needs and budget. 

Medicare Supplement Plans for Cruise Ship Claims

Some Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans also provide coverage for traveling abroad. There Medigap plans (C through G, M, and N) available that cover 80 percent of emergency care abroad.  

Note: Medicare coverage changes all the time. And your specific coverage may vary from plan to plan for Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans. Always be sure to double check with your health care provider and/or Medicare insurance provider about what your plan covers and what it does not.

Additional Info on Medicare Coverage

This article is part of our series on “What does Medicare cover?”

Also, you can check out other articles in this series including: Does Medicare cover Boniva?

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