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Do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Overseas Travel?

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When it comes to Medicare coverage, everyone has different needs. Some people are more interested in wellness benefits, for example, while others look for the best coverage for prescription drugs. If you’re enrolling in Medicare and you’re hoping to do some international traveling, one question has extra importance: do Medicare Advantage plans cover overseas travel?

This article will give you the basics on Medicare and overseas travel, and how Medicare Advantage plans compare when it comes to choosing the right Medicare coverage for you.

How do Medicare Advantage plans work?

Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C, is simply an alternative way to get your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits. The main difference between the two is that Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies, which means each company has some freedom to set its own premiums, cost sharing, and benefits.

All Medicare Advantage plans must cover, at a minimum, everything that Original Medicare covers, but they are free to include additional benefits, such as routine vision and dental care, and wellness benefits such as free gym membership through the Silver Sneakers program. In other words, you don’t lose any essential Medicare benefits if you choose Medicare Advantage, but you may gain a few perks.

Does Medicare cover overseas travel?

Original Medicare typically does not pay for emergency care when you’re traveling outside the U.S. There are a few exceptions:

  • If you’re in the U.S. and have a medical emergency, but the nearest hospital capable of treating your condition is in a foreign country, Medicare may cover allowable charges.
  • If you’re traveling through Canada on a direct route to Alaska and you need emergency care, Medicare may pay for your treatment if a Canadian hospital is closer than a U.S. hospital.
  • If you’re on a cruise ship in U.S. territorial waters and you need health care services, Medicare may cover allowable charges if the ship is more than six hours from a U.S. port.

Keep in mind, if you do get covered health care services outside the U.S. under the circumstances mentioned above, your normal Part A and Part B deductibles apply, as well as any copayment or coinsurance amounts. In addition, although U.S. hospitals must submit a claim to Medicare on your behalf, this is not true of foreign hospitals. You’ll need to get itemized bills from the hospital, doctors, ambulance service, and any other health care providers you see, and submit them yourself to Medicare upon your return.

Do Medicare Advantage plans cover overseas travel?

Because Medicare Advantage plans must provide the same benefits, at a minimum, as Original Medicare, your Medicare Advantage plan usually covers foreign travel in the situations mentioned above.

However, some Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits for emergency and/or routine health care if you are traveling outside the U.S. If you travel internationally, or plan to once you’re enrolled in Medicare, it’s a good idea to contact the different Medicare Advantage plans you’re interested in directly to find out exactly what benefits are available. In some cases, you may have to pay your expenses upfront and get reimbursed by your plan. Other plans may have a maximum limit on overseas travel benefits.

How can I get Medicare benefits for overseas travel?

If you definitely want coverage for health care outside the U.S., you may want to enroll in Original Medicare and a Medicare Supplement Plan. Medicare Supplement Plans C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, M, and N may cover up to 80% of certain health care services you need when you’re traveling overseas, after you meet your plan deductible for foreign travel. The expenses must occur within the first 60 days of your trip, and not otherwise be covered by Original Medicare. These plans also have a $50,000 lifetime limit on overseas travel benefits. You can get more information about overseas travel benefits, restrictions, and exclusions in your plan brochure.

Medicare Supplement Plans can only be used with Original Medicare, however, so you unfortunately can’t purchase a plan if you choose Medicare Advantage.

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