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Will Medicare cover me if I travel outside the United States?


Medicare doesn’t pay for medical services outside the United States or its territories, except in very limited circumstances, including if: 

  • You experience a medical emergency while traveling between Alaska and another state and a Canadian hospital is closest to your location.
  • You face a medical emergency while you’re in the United States or one of its territories, but the nearest hospital is across the border, for example in Canada or Mexico.
  • You live in the United States or one of its territories and need hospital care, regardless of whether it’s an emergency, but the nearest hospital is in a foreign country.
  • You need medical attention and you’re on a ship within six hours of a U.S. port.

Medicare covers all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as U.S. territories American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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What kind of care outside the U.S. will Medicare cover?

In rare situations, Medicare Part A will cover inpatient hospitalization and Medicare Part B will cover emergency ambulance and doctor services immediately before and during your hospital stay. 

The same deductibles, copayments and coinsurance apply as for services in the U.S. But coverage is limited: Medicare won’t pay for ambulance or doctor services in the foreign country after your covered hospital stay ends.

If you qualify, the foreign hospital may file a claim with Medicare, but it’s not required to do so. In that case, you may need to submit an itemized bill to Medicare. If you receive care on a cruise ship within six hours of a U.S. port, the attending doctor usually submits the Medicare claim.

Do Medicare supplement policies cover foreign travel?

If you buy a private Medicare supplement policy, better known as Medigap, you may be insured for foreign travel emergencies. Medigap plans C, D, F, G, M and N cover emergency health care while traveling outside of the country. But plans C and F are no longer available to new Medicare beneficiaries; only those eligible for Medicare before 2020 can enroll in plans C and F.

Medigap plans cover foreign travel emergency care that begins in the first 60 days of your trip. They pay 80 percent of the billed charges for specific medically necessary emergency care you receive outside the U.S., but you must first pay a $250 deductible for the year. Medigap’s foreign travel emergency coverage has a lifetime limit of $50,000.

What other foreign travel emergency coverage is available?

Medicare Advantage. Some private Medicare Advantage plans cover foreign travel emergency care, but here, too, coverage is limited and details vary. Find out more about the Medicare Advantage plans available in your area by using the Medicare Plan Finder.

Travel insurance. While some travel insurance policies cover trip cancellations, others also cover emergency medical care in a foreign country and medical evacuation either to a nearby medical facility or back to the U.S. However, some travel insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions, so find out about exclusions, coverage limits and other details before choosing a policy.

Tricare for Life. If you’re a military retiree, you may have foreign-country health care coverage through Tricare for Life after you enroll in Medicare. Tricare for Life typically covers Medicare’s deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, but it also provides additional benefits, such as health care outside of the U.S. It’s the same foreign travel insurance military retirees and dependents have before enrolling in Medicare. You pay any deductibles and copayments for that coverage.

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Keep in mind

If you plan to live abroad or travel back and forth regularly, rather than just vacation out of the country, you can enroll in Medicare. But you’ll forgo coverage while you’re away and still have to pay the monthly Part B premiums, typically $174.70 a month in 2024. You’ll also have to pay Part A premiums if you or your spouse haven’t paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.

If you decide to wait to enroll in Medicare until after you return to the United States, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty. If you work abroad and receive health insurance from your employer, live in a country with a national health system or volunteer and have health coverage through a sponsor organization, you may have some exemptions.

This includes eligibility for an eight-month special enrollment period after you stop working or lose your insurance; six months if you’re volunteering. It’s a good idea to research your options before making any decisions about health care insurance while traveling.

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