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Planning a trip? Know what Medicare covers

Get the coverage you need

This article was last updated on March 18, 2022.

If you're like a lot of Americans, you're itching to get out on the road for a weekend getaway or an extended stay in a warm, sunny location. You may even be booking that trip of a lifetime outside the U.S.

When you’re traveling, you want your health to be protected in case the unexpected happens. That’s why it’s important to know how your Medicare coverage works when you’re away from home. In some cases, especially if you are traveling for an extended period of time, you may want to purchase additional coverage for emergency care.

Traveling in the U.S.

If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, your coverage travels with you anywhere in the U.S. and its territories. To avoid high out-of-pocket costs, you will want to seek treatment from hospitals and doctors that accept Medicare. In the case of a sudden injury or illness, Medicare Part B usually covers emergency care.

If you are enrolled in a Medicare supplement plan, your coverage will travel with you across the country, and you can visit any Medicare-participating doctor or hospital with no referrals. As a reminder, you must be enrolled in Original Medicare to have a Medicare supplement plan. This type of coverage helps pay for some health care costs and services left over after Original Medicare pays.

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), within the U.S. you have coverage for most urgent care and medical emergencies. Medicare Advantage plans have a comprehensive network of health care providers External Site. Some plans are part of a national health care provider network so you can access critical care across the country, when needed, as well as high-travel destinations such as Florida, Arizona and Texas.

Note: Since out-of-network providers are not required to accept Medicare Advantage patients, it's important to check your benefits and network before you go.

Traveling outside the U.S.

If you are enrolled in Original Medicare, you will not be reimbursed for any medical bills or emergencies outside of the U.S. There are a few Medicare-approved services that may be reimbursed in foreign countries, such as inpatient hospital care and ambulance services. Prescription drugs are also not reimbursed outside the U.S.

If you are enrolled in a Medicare supplement plan you'll find that most plans provide coverage for emergency care outside the U.S. Here’s how it works:

  • Foreign travel emergency care is covered if it begins during the first 60 days of your trip and if Medicare doesn't otherwise cover the care.
  • Your plan will pay 80 percent of the billed charges for certain medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S. after you meet a $250 deductible for the year.
  • Foreign travel emergency coverage has a lifetime maximum limit of $50,000.

If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), your plan benefits will determine if you'll be reimbursed for medical bills or emergencies that happen outside the U.S.

Some plans do offer worldwide coverage for emergency transportation, emergency care and urgently needed care, as well as certain emergencies. If travel is important to you, be sure to consider your plan options Opens New Window before enrolling in coverage. And, before you travel outside the U.S., call customer service or talk to your insurance agent to best understand your benefits while traveling.

Get peace of mind with additional travel insurance

If you are exploring new countries in retirement, you may want to consider travel medical insurance Opens New Window.

GeoBlue® External Site provides peace of mind to travelers anywhere in the world through an international network of doctors and hospitals, with zero need to file for reimbursement.** Coverage options range from single trips to those living abroad long-term. 

Depending on the plan you choose, you could even be covered for medical evacuation, which means you can be transported to other parts of a country or outside the country if you are seriously ill or injured.

You don’t need health coverage with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield to purchase a GeoBlue plan. You can get a quote and purchase a plan online External Site or call 800-336-0505.

Find more information for safe travel here on Blue:

Taking a trip away from home may look a little different than it did a few years ago. Plan ahead with this helpful information:

Bonus tip! Save on travel expenses with Blue365®. Wellmark members get exclusive discounts on travel-related expenses with Blue365 External Link. Simply use your ID card to get started.

** Long-term GeoBlue plans are not available in South Dakota.

GeoBlue® is a trade name of Worldwide Insurance Services, LLC, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Blue365® is a discount program available to members who have medical coverage with Wellmark. This is NOT insurance.

Blue365® is a registered mark of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.