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Medicare generally does not apply outside the United States and its territories. This includes travel on a cruise ship registered to a foreign country. There are three exceptions:

  • Medical emergencies arising in Canada for those who can document that they are traveling the most direct route between continental U.S. and Alaska.
  • When an emergency occurs in the U.S. and a Canadian or Mexican hospital is closer than any in the U.S.
  • Those whose home is closer to a Canadian or Mexican hospital than to one in the U.S.

Medicare Supplement plans C, D, F, G, M, and N (described in the next section) do provide a limited "Foreign Travel Emergency Benefit". This benefit pays as follows:

  • Pays only for emergency care.
  • Pays only after you first meet and pay a $250 deductible.
  • Pays 80% of billed charges for Medicare eligible expenses for medically necessary hospital, physician, and medical care received in a foreign country. You would be responsible for the other 20%.
  • Has a $50,000 lifetime maximum benefit.

Medicare Advantage plans may provide even better foreign travel benefits in the form of worldwide emergency and urgent care; however, you need to check your plan's foreign travel health insurance coverage if you plan to travel outside the U.S. They usually limit payments to Medicare's $50,000 on international travel and will not pay for your return to your home country.

You can also purchase short-term travel medical insurance coverage designed for international travelers. Such coverage may provide medical referrals and advice by telephone, payment for treatment or evacuation back home, accidental death coverage, or coverage for canceled or delayed trips. If over 65 and traveling overseas, compare Seven Corner's plans for seniors on our Foreign Travel Insurance Choices page. They cover at higher age and benefit levels.

We ALWAYS recommend to our senior clients that they purchase a foreign travel policy any time they travel outside of the United States. It is just plain common sense, doesn't cost much and could make your life much easier in an emergency.