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does Medicare cover medical expenses abroad

Does Medicare Cover Medical Expenses Abroad?

One of the great pleasures for many seniors is having more time for travel.  

And international travel can be particularly exciting. Getting to visit exotic lands, enjoy different cultures and sample delicious foods in different countries is an amazing experience. 

But what happens if you get sick when you’re overseas? Or have an accident in a foreign land? 

Questions like these lead to an even more common question many have… “Does Medicare cover Medical Expenses Abroad?” In this article, we answer that question in clear, plain English. You will also find the average costs of medical expenses abroad and other helpful info. 

Does Medicare Cover Medical Expenses Abroad? 

The short answer is no. In most cases, Medicare will not cover the cost of your medical expenses abroad. That said, there may be some situations where you can get these costs covered. Below we’ll take a closer look at this to see when you might be able to get Medicare to pay for your medical expenses abroad.  

Original Medicare

Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) does not provide coverage for your medical expenses outside of the U.S.A., For coverage, the US includes Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  

Outside of those areas, you will usually have to pay for 100 percent of your medical expenses. 

When Original Medicare May Cover Medical Expenses Abroad

There are some cases when Medicare may pay for your medical expenses if you are outside of the U.S. territories. While rare, it’s still good to know what these are. Here are some situations where Medicare may pay for your medical expenses outside of the U.S.: 

  • One situation is if you are in the U.S. when a medical emergency occurs. You require immediate medical attention (ie. to prevent disability or death) and a foreign hospital is closer to you than a U.S. hospital. 
  • You are traveling to/from Alaska and the US mainland through Canada when you need medical attention. If a Canadian hospital is closer to you than a US hospital, you can get some coverage. Although, you have to be taking a direct route through Canada – Medicare will not cover you if you are taking the scenic route.  
  • Your home in the U.S. is closer to a foreign hospital than to a US hospital that can treat your condition (regardless of whether an emergency exists).  
  • If you get medical care while you are on a cruise ship and the ship is in the U.S. territorial waters or within six hours of arrival or departure from the U.S. port.  

In the above situations, Medicare may cover doctor’s fees, a stay in an inpatient hospital, ambulance services or dialysis.  

If Medicare will provide coverage for your medical expenses abroad, Medicare Part A will cover hospital care.  

Medicare Part B covers emergency and non-emergency ambulance and doctor services that you get immediately before and during your hospital stay in a foreign country. However, Medicare Part B will not cover any of the said services if Medicare did not cover your hospital stay. They will also not cover ambulance and doctor’s services after your covered hospital stay has ended.  

Once covered, you will pay for the coinsurance that you normally pay.  

Medicare Advantage Plans 

Some Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) provide coverage for overseas travel. Whether your plan covers you abroad or not depends on the plan and how long you are away for. Where your travel and what kind of medical treatment you need also come into play here.  

If you have Medicare Advantage, you will want to contact your plan provider before you travel to know exactly what coverage you have. 

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 alcohol rehab?

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