Will Medicare Cover Long Term Travel


Traveling is one of the top retirement activities among senior citizens. According to Aging in Place, 80% of Baby Boomers have put traveling at the top of their bucket list. Sound familiar? 

If you are like most people, you are likely planning travel itineraries before ever considering medical emergencies occurring during your trip. No one intends on experiencing a medical emergency, but it is important to be prepared for the unknown.  

Original Medicare

Travelling in the States

Original Medicare does not l a network of doctors. Therefore, you can travel anywhere within America with Original Medicare and never lose coverage, if you see doctors who accept Medicare. If you are traveling in the United States territories, such as Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or the Northern Mariana Islands, you can still access medical care from their hospitals or doctors if they accept Medicare.

For example, if you vacation in Florida for three months and need to see a doctor, then Original Medicare will still cover you if the doctor accepts Medicare. 

Travelling outside the States 

Since Medicare is an American healthcare program, Original Medicare will not provide coverage for travel outside the United States and its territories. It is usually only under certain emergency circumstances where Medicare will cover you outside the United States.

For example, if you are in America and have a medical emergency and a foreign hospital is the closest to you, you can seek treatment at the international hospital. You may also be able to receive healthcare services on a cruise ship if you are no more than six hours away from the United States.

If you go to a foreign hospital for an emergency, the doctor does not have to take your American insurance. When you visit an international hospital for health care services, prepare to pay for your services in full.  

Medicare Supplement

Travelling in the States

Since Medicare Supplements are compatible with Original Medicare, the same travel rules apply in the United States. Medigap plans do not have any network restrictions. Therefore, if you are traveling throughout the United States long-term, you can visit any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare.

Medicare Supplements are ideal for seniors who plan to travel long-term throughout the United States.

Travelling outside the States 

Many Medicare Supplements provide foreign travel coverage. The foreign travel coverage will include a $250 deductible and will cover 80% of your Medicare-approved services after you have met the deductible. You will have a total of $50,000 of lifetime coverage through these select Medicare Supplement plans.

However, foreign travel benefits are limited. Medicare Supplement plans will only pay for medical emergencies that take place within the first 60 days of your travel. Therefore, if a medical emergency occurs outside the country on day 65, your Medicare Supplement will not payout.  

Medicare Advantage

Travelling in the States

The two most popular types of Medicare Advantage plans are HMO and PPO plans. With that said, both types of plans have a service area where you can receive healthcare services. With an HMO plan, you can only receive healthcare services within your network. However, you can use your HMO plan for emergency room or urgent care visits.

Medicare Advantage PPO plans provide a little more flexibility. With a PPO plan, you can receive healthcare services in and out of the network. If you receive care out-of-network, you will pay higher cost-sharing then you would in-network. However, if you go out-of-network, a doctor or hospital does not have to accept your Medicare Advantage plan.

Medicare Advantage plans are not ideal for long-term senior travelers. Since Medicare Advantage plans have service areas, you cannot travel for more than six months outside your network. If you were to travel for more than six months continuously, you may be disenrolled from your Medicare Advantage plan.

Once you are disenrolled from your Medicare Advantage plan, you will be automatically switched back to Original Medicare.  When you make it back to your service area, you can apply for a new Medicare Advantage plan.

Travelling outside the States 

Many Medicare Advantage plans have worldwide emergency coverage built in their plans. However, your carrier will determine your worldwide emergency benefits. Therefore, you will want to check your plan’s summary of benefits to know what your cost-sharing will look like if an emergency occurs outside the country.

Even with emergency coverage, there is a chance a doctor or hospital in a different country will not bill your plan. If this is the case, you will have to pay for your service in full. However, you will want to hold on to all itemized bills and receipts. Your insurance agent should submit your invoices to your Medicare Advantage plan for reimbursement of your services.

Now, as it was mentioned earlier, you cannot travel outside your Medicare Advantage plans service area for more than six months. If you were to do so, you may lose your Medicare Advantage benefits and switch back to Original Medicare.

It will depend on your Medicare plan and where you are traveling to, to know if Medicare will cover long-term travel. Every Medicare plan varies in range of benefits and restrictions. Consult your Medicare’s summary of benefits or contact your provider to know if you have any long-term travel assets.