I’m planning an extended trip to Mexico and need to know if Medicare will cover me while abroad.

Generally Medicare does not cover health care, prescription drugs or dialysis when a person is traveling outside the U.S. There are a few narrow exceptions as noted below, but some Medigap policies provide for foreign travel. Standard Medigap Plans C, D, F, G, M and N provide for foreign travel emergency coverage. Medigap Plans C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, M and N pay 80% of the billed charges after you meet a $250 deductible for the year and the emergency care must begin during the first 60 days of foreign travel. All foreign care policies have a $50,000 life-time limit. Check with your Medigap provider before you travel or visit the Medicare Options Com-pare site online at Medicare.gov or view the booklet Choosing a Medigap Policy: A Guide to Health Insurance for People with Medicare. A publication is also offered entitled Medicare Outside the United States.

Medicare can pay under these limited exceptions:

1.You live in the U.S. near a foreign country and a foreign hospital is closer for emergency and non-emergency medical treatment.
2.You are traveling in the U.S. when an emergency strikes and a foreign hospital is closer for emergency treatment.
3.You are crossing through Canada on your way between Alaska and another state without un-reasonable delay and a medical emergency occurs, then Medicare will pay for the emergency treatment in Canada if its hospitals are closer or easier to get to.

Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands are considered part of the United States.

Hospitals in the U.S. are required to submit claims for Medicare, that is not true with foreign hospitals so be sure to get and keep that itemized bill for doctors, inpatient care and ambulance services, and to promptly submit it yourself.

Go to MedicareOnlineForms and select Patient’s Request for Medi-cal Payment. Be sure to print the instructions. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE. You will still have to pay for co-pays and deductibles. Medicare will cover some care on a cruise ship, if you are in or no more than 6 hours from a U.S. port. Under some laws a doctor on a cruise ship can provide some kinds of services. Check with the cruise line and/or your travel agent in advance with regards to any known conditions or risks you may have. If you are heading south of the border soon and find you will not be covered, consider purchasing travel insurance with health care coverage. Call a travel agency or check online for policies and terms.

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