Page Reviewed / Updated - August 20, 2020
Many seniors anticipate traveling abroad during their golden years. Unexpected medical emergencies can quickly turn their dreams into frightening and devastating scenarios. Health care coverage through Medicare Advantage plans can help dissipate a major cloud over a dream trip and provide a financial umbrella in case a health storm arises.
One of the greatest benefits of Medicare Advantage plans is coverage for health-related expenses while traveling beyond the United States or U.S. territories: The District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Medicare Advantage plans must provide at least the same benefits as Original Medicare. Consequently, the same emergency care provisions under Medicare Parts A and B apply with Medicare Advantage—also called Medicare Part C, including coverage for:
Medicare Advantage can pay for additional international care expenses because it is managed by private carriers. However, the medical services covered depend on the plan, destination, length of travel and care needed during the trip. Some plans require paying upfront and getting reimbursed.
Some Medicare Advantage plans keep people on a plan if they are traveling abroad for extended periods, but seniors traveling outside of their Medicare Advantage plan's service area for over six months could face disenrollment. Even seniors traveling within the United States or its territories may be disenrolled unless they notify the plan of changing geographic locations.
Seniors who are disenrolled under these circumstances can join a different Part C plan during a special enrollment period. If they don't choose a new plan, they will be automatically enrolled in Original Medicare.
Seniors expecting to travel abroad should carefully research Medicare Advantage plans to be sure they'll have the coverage they need for foreign travel. Seniors must be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B in order to qualify. Explore plan and enrollment options at Medicare.gov.
Some Medicare Part C plans include a benefit covering 80% of medically necessary urgent care received abroad. The care must begin during the first 60 days of each trip, after paying a $250 annual deductible. These plans carry a lifetime maximum benefit of $50,000. Cigna and Aetna are two companies that do have plans that cover international travel.
Diligent research is crucial in choosing a Medicare Advantage plan to meet health care goals. Ask plan providers for details about international coverage. Look for options that include a 24-hour nurse helpline. Although prescription drugs may not be needed now, sign up now to avoid penalties later. Compare the cost of premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.
Major Medicare Advantage plan providers recommend purchasing additional travel health insurance before visiting international destinations. Individuals with chronic health conditions or prescription needs should definitely consider travel health insurance to help keep potential medical costs manageable. This differs from a simple travel insurance policy that only covers travel-related expenses, so read the conditions carefully.