Do Medicare Supplement Plans Cover Foreign Travel?

August 7, 2019

Some Medicare supplement plans cover foreign travel medical expenses and are available from private insurance companies. When you aren’t traveling outside of the U.S., this insurance can be used in conjunction with Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) and have a lifetime coverage limit of $50,000.

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A Closer Look at Medicare Supplement Plans for Foreign Travel

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that out of the 10 available Medicare supplement plans designated plan A through N, six offer foreign travel coverage: Plans C, D, F, G, M, and N. These plans provide foreign travel coverage for up to 80 percent of the medical expenses you encounter while traveling abroad after you meet a $250 annual deductible. This insurance also covers foreign travel emergency care if it is required during the first 60 days of your trip and Medicare does not pay the cost.

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Medicare supplement plan F is a high-deductible option for foreign travel, and you are required to pay Medicare-covered costs up to $2,240 before your supplemental plan pays anything. Medicare supplement plan N provides full Part B coinsurance coverage, except copayments up to $20 for some office visits and up to $50 copayments for emergency room visits which lead to inpatient admissions.

Insurance companies decide which Medicare supplement policies to accept while complying with state and federal regulations. They must provide Medicare supplement plans C and F if they offer at least one other Medicare supplement plan. It’s a good idea to know what each Medicare supplement plan covers.

Medicare supplement plans in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin differ from those available in other states:

  • Massachusetts: You can obtain foreign travel emergency coverage if you purchase the state’s Supplement 1 plan.

  • Minnesota: The Extended Basic plan offers up to 80 percent of medical coverage if you are in a foreign country and 80 percent of international emergency care.

  • Wisconsin: The core Medicare supplement plan does not include foreign travel medical care. However, some insurance companies offer foreign travel emergency coverage to Wisconsin residents as a rider, which is a provision amending a policy’s terms. While not all insurance companies will agree to add a rider for medical expenses incurred abroad, Wisconsin residents should be able to find an insurer who can provide the rider.

If you purchased Medicare supplement plans E, H, I, or J before June 1, 2010, you already have foreign travel medical emergency benefits. Those policies are no longer an option for new subscribers.

Be sure to see our tips for buying Medicare supplement insurance before you speak with an insurance agent. The information in this guide will let you know what questions to ask before you buy coverage.

How to Apply for Medicare Supplement Insurance with Foreign Travel Coverage

Your Medicare supplement insurance application determines your eligibility for open enrollment or guaranteed issue rights. When you complete an application for Medicare supplement insurance with foreign travel coverage, fill out the form carefully and thoroughly. If an insurance agent fills out an application on your behalf, make sure all of the information is correct before you sign the document.

Medicare supplement plans are available with no medical underwriting during the open enrollment period. Open enrollment begins automatically during the month you turn 65 or older. If you purchase a Medicare supplement policy during your open enrollment period, the insurance company can’t use any of your medical information to deny coverage or change the cost of the premium.

Because of guaranteed issue rights, insurance companies must sell you a Medicare supplement policy which covers all of your pre-existing health conditions, and it can’t charge you a higher premium due to your past or current health issues.

Medicare supplement plans with foreign travel coverage generally take effect the first of the month after you apply, but the insurance company can activate the plan on a date that coincides with the day you leave the country. If your insurance company is unwilling to begin your Medicare supplement plan on a specific date, contact your State Insurance Department for assistance.

If you decide to retire in a foreign country, you will not be eligible for Medicare supplement insurance. You will have to buy insurance from an agent or exchange in that country.

Couple traveling

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Additional Insurance for Foreign Travel

If you are traveling abroad for a lengthy amount of time, you should consider purchasing medical insurance to help fill any gaps from deductibles and coverage maximums in your Medicare supplement policy. Carrying additional coverage can further protect you financially if you have chronic medical conditions that could require multiple doctor visits or hospitalization.

  • Primary travel medical insurance: You can buy primary travel medical insurance when you purchase a Medicare supplement plan from an insurance agent. Primary travel medical coverage pays foreign travel medical claims up to your policy limit so you can use the primary travel medical insurance for a claim amount that would exceed your Medicare supplement plan limit.

  • Secondary travel medical insurance: A secondary policy is also available to purchase in combination with a Medicare supplement plan. Secondary travel medical insurance guarantees your foreign travel medical bills are paid after your Medicare supplement plan, or any other foreign travel coverage you have pays its share.

The Bottom Line on Medicare Supplement Plans and Foreign Travel

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends talking to a Medicare supplement insurance agent before you book a trip outside the United States. Make this conversation a part of your travel planning so you can receive information about all of your Medicare supplement plan options and be prepared should you need medical care on your trip.