Broker Check

Medicare and Travel

June 20, 2023

For the great majority of us, when we turn 65 Medicare becomes our health insurance plan.  And, retirement for some means traveling . . . and traveling to overseas’ destinations becomes very desirable!  But, what a lot of retirees do not know is that Medicare doesn’t pay for care outside the United States!.  So what happens if you’re traveling and there’s a medical emergency? Well . . . this is where Medigap policies can make a big difference.

Medigap policies do just what the name implies – they fill in the gaps of health coverage that Medicare alone does not do.  And, consequently, most Medigap policies (lettered Plans C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, M, and N) do cover some portion of certain medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S., typically 80% of the billed charges during the first 60 days of a trip after a $250 deductible.

The lifetime limit for foreign travel emergency health coverage is $50,000. If you are planning a trip, and you have a Medigap policy, it’s always a good idea to check with the Medicap company or insurance agent to get more information about Medigap coverage while traveling.

Now, it’s a little different if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, because, while some plans have a very robust amount of protection for travelers outside the U.S., some do not and coverage can really vary for emergency care overseas.

Some Medicare Advantage plans cover a portion of emergency care delivered abroad, often with higher copayments and coinsurance amounts. Again, check your plan before traveling.

Regardless of the type of coverage, if you incur medical expenses overseas you almost always have to pay your medical expenses by credit card before leaving the facility. Then you would have to file a claim with your insurance company for reimbursement when you return home.

One thing to note for those of you who have a premium travel credit card: you may actually have some medical coverage as part of your cardholder benefits!  For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card covers up to $2,500 for emergency medical or dental expenses that are not covered by medical insurance after a $50 deductible. Covered expenses may include the services of a qualified doctor, nurse, dentist or osteopath; hospital/operating room costs; anesthesia, X-rays or lab tests; ambulance transportation; and medicine.

Many travelers routinely buy travel insurance to cover unreimbursed expenses if a trip has to be cancelled for some reason. But it is critical not to confuse cancellationinsurance with travel medical insurance as they don’t offer the same benefits and protections. Generally, these two coverage types fall under the “travel insurance” umbrella.

  • Trip cancellation insurance covers unreimbursed costs if the trip is canceled due to unexpected circumstances. Medical coverage is generally limited to extreme things like medical evacuations or accidental death or dismemberment.
  • Travel medical insurance is a stand-alone policy that is designed to cover costs associated with emergency care, such as trips to the hospital and doctor services.

Even if you have purchased trip cancellation insurance (or have it included with your credit card), and even if your Medigap policy or Medicare Advantage plan offers some international coverage, you may want to buy a separate travel medical insurance policy. These policies generally pay 80% of costs with limits between $50,000 and $2 million.

You can search for both trip cancellation and travel medical insurance policies at SquareMouth, InsureMyTrip, or TravelGuard.

Now . . . we want everyone to enjoy their travel and there are so many incredible places around the globe to visit and explore.  But, by the same token, we also want you to have the peace of mind in knowing that, if, indeed, you do fall ill during one of your overseas’ adventures, that you have taken all the right precautions to protect yourself.

And, as always, should you have any questions about this, please let us know and we can put you in touch with our Medicare specialist who can provide you with the answers that you’ll need to set your mind at ease.