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A Guide to Traveling On Medicare

Christian Worstell

by Christian Worstell | Published October 31, 2023 | Reviewed by John Krahnert

Whether you're moving from one state to the next or vacationing within the U.S. or abroad, you might have questions about how your Medicare coverage will be affected once you cross a border. This guide can help explain some of the things you need to know about your Medicare coverage before you travel.

Senior couple examines map

Does My Medicare Coverage Travel With Me?

Your Original Medicare benefits go with you anywhere you travel within the 50 United States, as well as:

  • The District of Columbia
  • Puerto Rico
  • The U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Guam
  • The Northern Mariana Islands
  • American Samoa

As long as you can find a health care provider that accepts Medicare in any of those areas, you can utilize your benefits just the same as if you were at home. Medicare Supplement Insurance plans (also called Medigap) may be used anywhere that accepts Medicare.

That same kind of flexibility may not be true with all Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans. Almost all Medicare Advantage plans are structured to work with a network of providers, and visiting a provider outside of your network will typically cost you more (or may not be covered at all). You may check with your plan’s provider to see if any providers in the area in which you are traveling participate in your plan’s network.

Moving To A New State With Medicare

Just as with traveling for vacation, Original Medicare benefits stay with you if you move to a new state or any of the territories from the list above. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan, you should check with your provider to learn more about coverage in your new state of residence.

If you have Medicare Advantage, your plan will likely not cover you if you move to a new state because you typically must live in the plan's service area. However, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). Check with your plan provider to learn more about your individual circumstances.

What About Medicare Coverage While In A Foreign Country?

Original Medicare doesn't typically provide coverage outside of the United States or the aforementioned territories. However, a Medicare Supplement Insurance plan may.

There are 10 standardized Medicare Supplement Insurance plans (also known as Medigap). Six of these types of plans will cover 80 percent of emergency care received in a foreign country. Here are some things to know about Medigap’s foreign care coverage:

  • Care will only be covered if it begins during the first 60 days of your foreign stay.
  • You must meet a $250 annual deductible for the foreign care benefit.
  • There is a $50,000 lifetime limit for foreign care coverage.

Are There Any Exceptions to Foreign Medicare Coverage?

There are three situations in which you may still be covered by Original Medicare for certain services received in a foreign country:

  • If you are in the U.S. when a medical emergency occurs but a foreign hospital is closer to you than the nearest U.S. hospital that would be able to treat your injury or illness.

  • If you are traveling through Canada either to or from Alaska when a medical emergency occurs.

  • You live in the U.S. but a foreign hospital is closer to your home than any U.S. hospital that could treat your injury or illness. This is true regardless of whether it is an emergency situation or not.

Traveling outside of the U.S. on a cruise ship brings two additional Medicare coverage exceptions for emergency care:

  • The doctor is able and allowed to provide medical care on the ship.

  • The ship is in a U.S. port or less than six hours away from a U.S. port when services are provided. This is true regardless of whether or not it is an emergency situation.

Knowing how Medicare will cover you while you’re away from home will help you travel more safely and bring you peace of mind while on the road.

Learn more about staying active and healthy as you age with these helpful resources:


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