A blog about Medicare. What you and your employees need to know

Relax- Medicare and Travel

Author: Lora Drummond

Medicare Transition Specialist

Posted: 02/22/2021

#8 Solution- Relax-  Medicare and Travel

Once the pandemic risk lessens to the point that people begin feeling confident about traveling, folks will begin packing their suitcases again. Even though travel is not popular right now, questions continue to come up in all of our Medicare workshops about how travel and Medicare work together. I thought I would address some of the questions in case your employees have inquiries about how Medicare and travel would work together.

US Travel

Regarding local US travel, folks who choose Original Medicare and a Medicare Supplement can see any doctor or visit any hospital anywhere in the US at any time.

Medicare Advantage plans are usually network-specific. For folks who choose those Medicare plans, keep in mind that care outside of the network-specific to their plan will be limited. The good news is those plans have you covered for urgent care or emergencies should anything arise while traveling anywhere in the US.

Foreign Travel

For folks anxious to resume travel overseas, the coverage is handled differently. 

Medicare usually doesn’t cover health care while you’re traveling outside the US. Sometimes Medicare will cover emergency care while on a cruise ship, but it depends on where the cruise ship is located in territorial waters. 

The simplest thing to remember is that when it comes to medical costs outside of the U.S., foreign hospitals won’t file Medicare claims for your travel medical costs. You will be responsible for 100% of the costs at the time you receive services and later submit your itemized bills and receipts to Medicare to determine what they will cover when you return.

Don’t forget, if you fall in Italy, the billing process can be a challenge due to language barriers too – details of care and the itemized bills have to be transcribed through a 3rd party which would be your responsibility to facilitate and pay for before they can be submitted to Medicare.

Then you will wait for Medicare to determine what they will pay for. (Supplement plans.)

Medicare Advantage plans might cover some emergency expenses, but most plans recommend travel insurance. To be sure, you should check with your insurance carrier before traveling. 

Important: Medicare drug plans don’t cover prescription drugs you buy outside the US.


A Note About Medicare Supplement coverage outside the U.S

According to Medicare, if you have Medigap Plan C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, M, or N, your plan:

  • Covers foreign travel emergency care if it begins during the first 60 days of your trip and if Medicare doesn’t otherwise cover the care.
  • Pays 80% of the billed charges for certain medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S. after you meet a $250 deductible for the year.

Medicare recommends that you confirm your coverage details and limits with your Medicare Supplement insurance carrier before leaving on your trip. As you might imagine, the coverage under Medicare reimbursement is not cut and dry, so in most cases, when traveling outside of the U.S., we recommend to our clients to purchase travel insurance. 

Additional Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is our best recommendation when traveling out of the US. Meeting with a Certified Medicare Planner® (CMP), your employees can review options and understand the coverage options that will be available wherever they are traveling and how to obtain additional insurance. Talking with a CMP will help lend to a stress-free trip. 

According to Forbes, prior to the pandemic, only about 30% of foreign travelers purchased a travel plan policy. But its popularity is expected to rise because of the pandemic, particularly among senior travelers. Travel policies are not like traditional healthcare plans we are familiar with, so a careful review of coverage and limitations is recommended. There are ‘waivers’ for coverage some travelers will want to consider, such as coverage for some pre-existing conditions. Travel insurance comes with a price tag, but most travelers agree it is worth the peace of mind.

If the Medicare coverage for travel is confusing, we get it! Certified Medicare Planners® have seen it all and welcome your call for guidance. 

Our talk show 65 and Counting just featured an entertaining episode on this same topic- you can enjoy it here: 65 and Counting -Traveling with Medicare


Medicare guidance for your employees in 2021.

Do you need additional medical insurance with Medicare when you travel?

Create a compliant Medicare benefit support plan. Give your employees personal guidance from a team of experts that will follow them after they retire.

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– Lora

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