Does Medicare Cover Foreign Travel?

by David Bynon, last updated

At some point in your life, you’re likely to consider traveling outside of the United States. Perhaps a vacation in Italy or a cruise to Mexico. When you’re planing such a trip, you may wonder if you’re still covered by Medicare. The answer is mostly no, but there are exceptions.

In this MedicareWire article, we’ll be going over how Medicare handles foreign travel and how you can make sure you have the coverage you need while you explore the world.

Key Takeaways

  • Medicare does not cover health care services outside of the US and its territories.
  • Medicare does cover emergency health care outside of the US under certain circumstances.
  • Many Medigap policies will provide additional help for emergency health care costs when traveling outside of the US.
  • A few Medicare Advantage plans might have certain coverages for health care abroad, but otherwise only cover what Original Medicare covers.
  • Medicare Part D plans do not cover the costs of prescription drugs when traveling abroad.
  • Travel insurance policies can provide coverage while you are outside of the US, but the amount of coverage can vary between policies.

When Does Medicare Provide Coverage During Foreign Travel?

In most cases, Medicare does not cover health care costs outside of the U.S. or its territories. There are a few exceptions, including instances where Medicare Part B may pay for services onboard a cruise ship within territorial waters adjoining the land areas of the United, “Medicare Coverage Outside the United States“, Accessed December 10, 2021

Medicare may cover inpatient, doctor, ambulance, or dialysis in a foreign country in several rare, “Medicare Coverage Outside the United States“, Accessed December 10, 2021.

  1. You’re in the United States when a medical emergency occurs that requires immediate medical attention, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital.
  2. You’re traveling through Canada en-route to or from Alaska and another state when a medical emergency occurs, and the Canadian hospital is closest.
  3. You live in the United States and a foreign hospital is closer to your home than the closest U.S. hospital that can treat your medical condition.

Even though Medicare won’t cover most foreign travel medical emergencies, many Medigap plans do (up to the limit of the policy), “Medicare Coverage Outside the United States“, Accessed December 10, 2021.

Medigap and Foreign Travel Emergencies

Medigap plans C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, M, and N provide foreign travel emergency health care coverage when you travel outside the U.S. Even though Plans E, H, I, and J are no longer for sale, you may keep it if you bought one of these plans before June 1, 2010. These Medigap plans will, “Medigap & Travel“, Accessed December 10, 2021.

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

Medigap policies has a lifetime limit of $50,000 for foreign travel emergency, “Medigap & Travel“, Accessed December 10, 2021.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans must cover the same services as Orginal Medicare (Part A and Part B), which means they will cover the same specific exceptions to foreign travel (see “When Does Medicare Provide Coverage During Foreign Travel?” above). However, the out-of-pocket costs for these services can vary compared to how Orginal Medicare covers them, depending on the, “How do Medicare Advantage Plans work?“, Accessed December 10, 2021

It is also important to note that a Medicare Advantage plan may offer expanded coverage for medical care received outside the United States and its territories. Be sure to talk with your Medicare Advantage plan provider when you plan to travel abroad to learn if they provide such a, “Medicare Coverage Outside the United States“, Accessed December 10, 2021.

Prescription Medications

Medicare Part D drug plans don’t cover prescription drugs you buy outside the United States. This means that you may need to bring your prescription medication with you when you travel. Fortunately, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows you to travel with prescription medication as long as it is screened, “Can you pack your meds in a pill case and more questions answered“, Accessed December 10, 2021.

Travel Insurance

So, now what? How do you get more health care coverage when you’re traveling abroad if Medicare will only cover specific emergencies? The answer is travel insurance policies.

A travel insurance policy can provide coverage for your health care for the duration of your trip. However, not all travel insurance policies have health care coverage or those that do may only cover emergency situations. Discuss your concerns and health care needs with a travel agency before you purchase a policy. They will help you find the coverage you need for your, “Medicare Coverage Outside the United States“, Accessed December 10, 2021.


Medicare will not cover your health care while you are abroad, except in those rare situations. Medigap policies can help with emergencies but it doesn’t help with non-emergency care. Your best move when traveling outside of the United States is to buy a travel insurance policy to get more coverage.


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