Does Medicare Cover Emergency Room Visits?

by David Bynon, last updated

If you are admitted to the hospital after a visit to the emergency room, it’s covered by Medicare Part A. Otherwise, it’s covered by Part B.

Does Medicare Part A Cover Emergency Room Visits?

In this article, we’ll help you better understand exactly how Original Medicare covers emergency room visits.

Key Takeaways

  • Emergency rooms are used for the immediate treatment of a condition that could cause permanent disability or death, such as a heart attack.
  • After the emergency room has provided its service, the patient will either be admitted into hospital services or be discharged with recommended outpatient services.
  • Medicare Part B provides coverage for emergency room visits.
  • Medicare will typically not cover costs for foreign emergency rooms except in specific circumstances.
  • Medicare Advantage plans will cover emergency room visits, but your out-of-pocket costs may vary.
  • Medigap will help with out-of-pocket costs for emergency rooms after Part B has provided its coverage.
  • Certain Medigap plans will help with emergency care while outside of the United States.

When Should Someone Visit the Emergency Room?

An emergency room (ER) visit is necessary if someone is experiencing an emergency medical condition that requires immediate treatment to prevent a disability or death. Examples of emergency medical conditions that warrant a visit to the ER, “Emergency Medicine: Services“, Accessed December 9, 2021

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Severe infections, including sepsis cases
  • Acute abdominal pain
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Persistent or high fevers (103 F /39.4 C)
  • Unconsciousness
  • Fractures
  • Motor vehicle collision injuries
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Sudden severe headaches, paralysis, seizure, or stroke symptoms
  • Dehydration

Once a person’s emergency condition has been determined and/or treated, their health care provider will either discharge them or admit them into hospital care. If they are discharged from the ER, they will be provided with instructions for further treatments and, “Emergency Medicine: Emergency treatment at Mayo Clinic“, Accessed December 9, 2021

When Does Medicare Cover An Emergency Room Visit?

In most cases, Medicare Part B covers hospital emergency room (ER) services due to an injury, a sudden illness, or an illness that quickly worsens. If you have Part B and you go to the, “Emergency department services“, Accessed December 9, 2021

  1. You pay a copayment for each ER visit and a copayment for every service the hospital provides; and
  2. You will pay a 20 percent coinsurance for the Medicare-approved amount of your doctor’s services (annual Part B deductible applies).

If your doctor determines you need to be admitted to inpatient care at the hospital, you will not be billed for the ER copayment for the first three days you were in the, “Emergency department services“, Accessed December 9, 2021

Medicare and Foreign Travel Emergencies

Medicare rarely covers emergency services in foreign countries. With that said, Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital, doctor, and ambulance services you get in a foreign country in these rare, “Travel“, Accessed December 9, 2021

  • You’re in the U.S. when a medical emergency occurs that requires immediate medical attention to prevent a disability or death, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition.
  • You’re traveling through Canada without unreasonable delay by the most direct route between Alaska and another state when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat the emergency.
  • You live in the U.S. and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition, regardless of whether an emergency exists.

In some cases, Medicare may cover medically necessary health care services you get on board a ship within the territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the U.S. Medicare won’t pay for health care services you get when a ship is more than 6 hours away from a U.S., “Travel“, Accessed December 9, 2021

Medicare Advantage Emergency Room Coverage

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your plan must cover ER visits, same as Medicare Part A and Part B. Since this would be considered an emergency treatment, you are not restricted to in-network providers until your immediate emergency condition has been treated. However, your out-of-pocket costs may be different than outlined above in “When Does Medicare Cover An Emergency Room Visit?”. Check with your Medicare Advantage plan provider for, “How do Medicare Advantage Plans work?“, Accessed December 9, 2021


If you have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), you can purchase a Medicare supplement insurance policy (Medigap) to help cover out-of-pocket costs. This includes any out-of-pocket costs you have remaining after your visit to the ER, such, “What’s Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap)?“, Accessed December 9, 2021

  • Deductibles
  • Coinsurance
  • Copayments
  • Blood

Medigap and Foreign Travel

While Medicare rarely covers emergency services in foreign countries, the standard Medigap Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N have a lifetime limit of $50,000 for foreign travel emergency coverage when traveling abroad. Medigap Plans E, H, I, and J also have foreign travel emergency coverage, but these are currently not for sale. With that said, if you bought one of those plans before June 2010, you still get to use it without, “Medigap & Travel“, Accessed December 9, 2021

If you have one of the Medigap plans listed above, your, “Medigap & Travel“, Accessed December 9, 2021

  • 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 percent of the billed charges for certain medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S. after you meet a $250 deductible for the year.


You should now have a better understanding of how Medicare covers an emergency room visit. Medicare Part B will provide coverage for the emergency room and you will have a remaining 20 percent coinsurance, as well as a copayment unless you are admitted to the hospital.

If you plan on traveling outside of the United States, it would be a good idea to talk with your Medigap plan provider first, if you have one. They will go over any details about your Medigap plan concerning foreign travel.

If you are concerned about how Medicare covers your ambulance transportation to the emergency room, please read our MedicareWire article on the topic here.


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