Medicare and Travel Insurance: Planning for Safe Summer Traveling

Summer is almost here—and for many seniors, travel is on the schedule. Fun trips to the beach, family reunions, and restful days outdoors can fill your summer days with fun and laughter. 

As much as we hope to avoid dealing with health issues while traveling, they can still arise. So you should know how your ongoing treatments will be affected by your travel and what to do in case of an emergency. 

Traveling nationally with Original Medicare insurance

If you’re on Original Medicare and you’re traveling within the U.S., the answer is simple: Medicare covers you nationwide! Most doctors and hospitals throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories accept Original Medicare and are able to treat you.

Traveling nationally with Medicare Advantage insurance

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, care while traveling isn’t as straightforward. Medicare Advantage covers a wider range of plans, meaning you’ll have to check with your individual plan to see what‘s covered. 

If you’re concerned about being prepared for an emergency, take a sigh of relief. All Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover emergency and urgent care. They cannot impose special restrictions or added costs to your care just because you’re outside your regular service area. So, if you’re a Medicare Advantage plan holder, you’re covered should a health emergency occur.  

For other kinds of care, some plans may allow you to see professionals outside your service area under certain conditions (like prior authorization). Or you may have higher cost-sharing (like co-payments) if you need care while traveling. 

For details of what your Medicare Advantage plan covers while traveling, contact your plan’s administrator directly. 

Longer travel insurance requirements 

If you’ll be traveling for more than six months while on Medicare Advantage, you have special considerations. Most plans will automatically disenroll members who are traveling for six continuous months outside of the plan’s service area. 

If this happens, you’ll have a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to sign up for a different Medicare Advantage plan. These SEPs are triggered by major life events including moving and losing other health coverage. If one of these events applies to you, you’ll be allowed to change your plan outside of the usual annual enrollment period window. If you don’t select a new plan during your SEP, you’ll be put on Original Medicare. 

But remember, different Medicare Advantage plans have different rules and approaches to travel. While some plans may disenroll you after six months, others allow you to stay enrolled in your existing plan for up to 12 months of continuous travel within the U.S. 

Traveling internationally 

If you’ll be traveling internationally, most medical care won’t be covered by Medicare and Medicare Advantage outside of a few exceptions. These situations include:

  • If you are traveling through Canada on a direct route to Alaska, emergency services will be covered. 
  • Medical care will be covered on a cruise ship while the ship is in the territorial waters of the U.S. 
  • If you live near a border and the closest hospital to your residence is a foreign hospital. 

If you’re concerned about being covered while traveling internationally, consider a Medigap policy, which provides temporary international travel insurance coverage. 

Questions about traveling while on Medicare? Get in touch with us at 877.255.6273!


image credit: shutterstock/Nata Bene