Q: Does Medicare or Medicaid cover me when traveling outside the United States?
Many travelers with disabilities or who have reached retirement age receive health insurance under Medicare or Medicaid. When traveling abroad, it is important to understand what that insurance will cover. In most cases, the Medicare and Medicaid programs will not cover healthcare services that you receive while traveling outside of the United States. But, there are some exceptions.
If you receive benefits under Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B, you will not be covered when you are outside of the country and its territories. U.S. territories where Medicare coverage remains valid are: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.
The only exception to Medicare's rules regarding international coverage pertains to cruise ships. If you are on a cruise ship that is within 6 hours of a U.S. port, you are covered. Once the ship has passed outside of that range, you won't be. There is an option to purchase additional Medicare coverage (beyond Parts A and B) that includes a limited international benefit.
Some Medigap supplemental insurance plans offer coverage for treatment you receive abroad. Parts C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, M and N cover 80% of eligible, Medicare-approved health services, up to a maximum of $50,000. Be aware that your lifetime benefit for medical expenses incurred outside of the country is $50,000. You can sign up for these supplementary insurance plans with a local insurance provider. Don't forget to verify that your plan will offer the "Foreign Travel Emergency" benefit.
Additional information on the Medicare policies regarding international coverage can be found at www.medicare.gov.
Medicaid provides no option for coverage outside of the United States. If you are covered by Medicaid, you should be aware that coverage can be suspended if you remain outside of the country for more than 30 days. You would have to hump through hoops in order to regain this coverage.
Travel Insurance Option
In my opinion, the more coverage you have, the better. In healthcare, $50,000 doesn't get you far. Medicine is expensive. I strongly recommend that all travelers, but especially those with disabilities, to insure their trip with independent travel insurance. I have outlined my recommendations in another International Travel FAQ article: Selecting A Travel Insurance Plan For The Wheelchair User - Coverage For Pre-Existing Conditions. You can cover your trip VERY affordably, and the plans I recommend cover pre-existing conditions.