Medicare May Not Pay Your Bills When Traveling Internationally

Medicare May Not Pay Your Bills When Traveling Internationally
  • February 21, 2024

Written By: Duaine Owings


As an international traveler, you should be aware that Medicare Coverage outside the U.S. is limited. Basically, to have Original Medicare pay for services you have only 3 situations where Medicare will pay for certain types of services in a foreign hospital:

  1. Emergency Services Near Borders: You’re in the U.S. when you have the medical emergency, and the foreign hospital is closer than the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your illness or injury.

  2. Travel Through Canada: You’re traveling though 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 that the nearest U.S. hospital that can treat your illness or injury. Medicare determines what qualifies as “without unreasonable delay” on a case-by-case basis.

  3. Proximity to Home: You live in the U.S. and the foreign hospital is closer to your home than the nearest hospital that can treat your medical condition, regardless of whether it’s an emergency.

Coverage Limitations:

  • Medicare only pays for its share of services covered by Original Medicare. If you only have Part A, Medicare only covers inpatient hospital care.
  • Medicare only pays for dialysis treatments, outside of the U.S., that are covered in the three situations listed above.
  • Medicare drug plans can’t cover prescription drug outside the U.S.

Cruise Ship Emergencies:

Medicare may cover medically necessary health care services you get on a cruise ship in the following situations:

  • The doctor is allowed under certain laws to provide Medicare services on the cruise ship.
  • The ship is in a U.S. port or no more than 6 hours away from a U.S port when you get the services, regardless of whether it’s an emergency.
  • Medicare doesn’t cover health care services you get when the ship is more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port.

Supplemental Coverage:

  • Medicare Supplement: Your Medigap policy C, D, F, G, M, and N may offer coverage for services outside of the U.S. in most instances up to $50,000 of lifetime coverage.
  • Medicare Advantage Plans: Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer some coverage and you should check with them for full details.

Important Consideration: Most domestic plans don’t cover air-ambulance and emergency medical evacuation and return of mortal remains to the U.S.

International Travel Medical and Safety Net

The Importance of International Travel Plans

There are a variety of accidents and mishaps that can happen to overseas travelers. As an agent, I have clients who have lost their lives overseas and had the international travel plans help with the return of their mortal remains. In some countries, you must pay the full bill to be discharged from the hospital. With the help of travel medical companies, you can be treated and on your way back home.

Support Beyond Medical Needs:

Whether it’s helping you with a lost passport or luggage, travel delays or sudden heart attack, anyone who is traveling overseas needs to have the safety net of an international travel plan. To fully serve international traveling seniors, agents should consider consider the following:

  1. International Travel Medical/Emergency Evacuation Cover: Essential for covering medical emergencies and evacuations.
  2. Trip Cancellation Plan: Helps cover the cost of trip delays, interruptions, unexpected death, or illness in the family that would prevent travel.
  3. Kidnap and Ransom Coverage: Advisable for those traveling to dangerous parts of the world, offering protection against kidnappings and ransom demands.

Serving a World of Travelers:

For the past 32 years, it’s been my agency’s pleasure to help individuals, mission sending organizations, and companies find the right coverage worldwide. Whether for short trips, expatriates, missionaries, church groups, or U.S. based companies with international travel needs, we’re here to assist. 

If you should have any questions, please feel free to contact me.