You may not have considered your vacation plans when choosing health care coverage, but you should. Knowing if you will be away from home, for how long, and how often, are important considerations when choosing a Medicare plan or re-evaluating your Medicare coverage.
Does Medicare Work Anywhere?
The short answer is “No.” Medicare coverage isn’t equal anywhere you go. Some Medicare plans don't provide for coverage beyond the state or county where you live and where the plan was purchased. That may be a concern for people who travel a lot or who live half the year in one place and half the year in another. You may fly south to winter in a warmer locale or travel north in the summer to escape extreme heat.
If you spend a good portion of the year somewhere other than your home state, you have some decisions to make about how you want your Medicare coverage to work and what you’re willing to pay.
Traveling With Original Medicare
If you’re traveling within the United States, or any of its territories, and you have Original Medicare (Parts A & B), this coverage travels with you. You can see any doctor or go to any facility that accepts Medicare and new patients. In most cases, you don’t need a referral.
Outside of the country though, most medical services won’t be covered except in special circumstances. Original Medicare will cover the following international items:
- Emergency services in Canada if you’re going between Alaska and another state, your travel route is direct and without unreasonable delay, and the closest hospital that can treat you is in Canada.
- Medical care on a cruise ship if the ship is in U.S. territorial waters when you receive care.
- Non-emergency inpatient services (under Part A) if the foreign hospital is closer to your home residence than the nearest U.S. hospital.
Traveling with Medicare Advantage or Part D
When it comes to Medicare Advantage or Part D plans, traveling can get tricky. Unlike Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans can be limited by the plan’s service area, and if you leave it, your plan may not cover you. Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer travel coverage (domestic and/or foreign), but the costs could vary depending on the plan’s rules about in-network versus out-of-network providers.
For Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, you’ll want to contact your plan provider to understand your options while traveling – nationally or internationally.
Medicare Plans Will Always Cover Emergency Care
The one thing you don't have to worry about regardless of what kind of Medicare coverage you have is an emergency while travelling in the country. Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover emergency and urgent care anywhere in the U.S. without any additional costs or rules about coverage.
Everyone’s travel and health care needs are different, so check and compare your coverage options carefully.