Traveling Abroad: What to Know Before You Go

Before you embark on your next getaway, take this into account: most insurance policies do not provide coverage outside of the US. While rest, relaxation and adventure may be your priorities, make plans to put your health first.

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Before traveling abroad, you may want to discuss the following with your insurance company:

  • What your travel insurance policy covers
  • The costs if you need to be transported to the U.S. for treatment
  • Whether your insurance will cover injuries due to high-risk activities such as mountain climbing, scuba diving or parasailing
  • How payment to foreign hospitals and doctors is handled and what you may be responsible for paying
  • Whether pre-existing conditions are covered
  • Whether your policy offers a 24-hour physician-backed support center
  • If you are over age 50, contact the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans.

Travel insurance offers you financial protection against cancellation, injury, unforeseen emergencies, and medical or dental needs associated with national and global travel. For example, travel insurance can cover missed flights, travel cancellation, missed cruise connections, missed side excursions on cruise ships, and trip interruptions. In addition, travel insurance may cover airline flights to return you to the U.S. if you have a medical emergency or if a family member has an emergency.

If you are traveling abroad, you can get Visitors Travel Medical Insurance for the duration of your trip. These types of plans provide insurance coverage for accident and health expenses during travel and stays abroad. Visitors Travel Insurance plans can be purchased for periods of 5 days to 3 years and provide different medical coverage with varying deductibles. The costs vary depending on the type of health insurance plan.

In most situations, Medicare will not cover health care, prescription drugs, or supplies outside the U.S. Review your health insurance policy for specific coverage details. If your situation meets one of the exceptions of Medicare coverage outside the U.S., you will likely be required to pay the coinsurance or co-payments and deductibles you would normally pay if you received the services in America. Foreign hospitals are not required to file Medicare claims for you so you should be prepared to submit an itemized bill to Medicare for any of the applicable doctor, inpatient and ambulance services.  If you received Medicare-covered services on a cruise ship, the doctor must submit the Medicare claim, assuming they have an office in the U.S.

Visit www.medicare.gov/MedicareOnlineForms and select the form “Patient’s Request for Medicare Payment” for information about filing claims. Print out the form and instructions that apply to your situation (such as for services you got on a cruise ship or during other foreign travel). For more information, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).