As more people get vaccinated, returning to some of the plans we made before COVID began is looking more appealing. Travel, both domestic and international, is high on the list for many people of activities they’d love to return to soon. When it comes to Medicare travel coverage options, individual Medicare plans may or may not cover your new adventures this 2021. 

Find out more information about the type of trip you’d like to take and how it syncs with the Medicare coverage you currently have. What are your best options for traveling with a Medicare insurance plan? How you can get better health insurance travel coverage moving into next year?

Does My Medicare Plan Cover Domestic Travel?

Whether your Medicare plan can work as Medicare travel coverage depends on what type of Medicare plan you have. Original Medicare—Parts A and B—are accepted anywhere in the U.S., so you are covered for the basics wherever you go.

However, your out-of-pocket costs, including about 20% of hospital and clinic fees, are not covered by Original Medicare. If you have a Medicare Supplement plan, that will cover the majority of your out-of-pocket fees anywhere you go within the U.S., making it a good option for domestic travelers.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you will need to check on the specific places you can obtain coverage. Medicare Advantage plans usually don’t cover out-of-pocket costs associated with traveling outside a specific area, so check what is considered in-network for you. Medicare Advantage plans typically don’t work well for people who will be out of the town they’re covered in for long periods of time.

Does My Medicare Plan Cover International Travel?

Medicare plans tend not to cover much international travel. However, certain types of Medicare Supplement insurance plans come with up to 80% of foreign medical costs deemed medically necessary—after hitting a $250 deductible—as part of their package. If you plan to travel internationally in the near future, looking into obtaining one of these plans could be a good way to build in some security. These plans generally have a $50,000 lifetime limit and should be deemed medically necessary.

Medicare Plans F, G, M, and N include this travel benefit. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer international coverage, but it’s not very common except in emergencies. Original Medicare alone will not cover medical expenses outside the U.S.

Can I Switch to a Plan That Covers Travel?

Medicare Supplement Insurance plans are available year-round, so it is possible to buy into a plan that has travel coverage. Keep in mind that these plans generally require underwriting—meaning your age and health status determine if your application is accepted—so it is possible your application will not be accepted. Enrollment is only guaranteed for these plans during  your Initial Enrollment Period when you first turn 65 or a Special Enrollment Period due to qualifying life events.

If you wish to buy a Medicare Supplement plan with travel coverage but already have an existing Medicare Advantage plan, you would have to wait until Annual Enrollment Period (Oct 15-Dec 7 every year) to drop your existing coverage. If you obtained your Medicare Advantage plan in the past 12 months you may be able to drop it sooner..

Does My Plan Cover Routine or Emergency Travel Care Only?

If the Medicare plan you have offers some travel coverage but you’re not sure how comprehensive it is, you can start by checking if it covers routine or emergency care only. Some travel insurance plans cover emergencies in other countries but won’t pay out for anything that doesn’t count as an emergency, which could leave you with a hefty bill if you seek that type of care.

Finding out the specifics of what is considered medically necessary care under your Medicare plan can help make sure you know exactly what is covered if you need health care while traveling in another country.

Do I Need to Prove I’ve Been Vaccinated?

As of April 2021, vaccine passports or any other kind of check for whether you’re immune to COVID-19 are not required for any type of travel. It is unclear what types of regulations may exist in the future as a higher number of people are immunized.

However, there are travel advisories in place for many countries, so finding out what the current COVID-19 risk levels are for the particular country you want to visit can help you plan your trip. If you travel internationally by airplane, there is a CDC requirement in place to prove either a negative COVID-19 test or recent recovery from the COVID-19 virus to return to the US by air.