Many of my clients and friends actively travel in their retirement. Specifically, many have asked whether Medicare will cover their medical expenses for care if they are in a foreign country.

In most cases, Medicare will not cover you for foreign travel health emergencies. This includes cruises! Many people erroneously think if their original port is in the U.S. they are covered. However, once you are in international waters, Medicare no longer covers your health care. Traditional Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States, or its territories. In rare cases, Medicare may pay for inpatient hospital services in Canada or Mexico.

Some Medicare Advantage (private Medicare) plans may provide coverage benefits for health care needs when enrollees travel outside the United States. I advise you to check with your plan before traveling. Medicare beneficiaries who are traveling and who have no other coverage must either buy short-term travel insurance or a ‘Medigap’ policy that covers foreign emergencies. Some Medigap plans offer travel emergency coverage, but the benefit applies only during the first 60 days of any trip. In addition, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including evacuations.

A few clients have asked about retiring in a foreign country and have asked the same question about Medicare. When a retiree moves to a foreign country, they cannot use Medicare to pay for health care while they are living overseas. The options for retirees are to buy private coverage, to pay into a government-sponsored system in their new country of residence, or to go without coverage.

We spend days and even months planning for vacations or the retirement of our dreams. The same time and research should be spent considering the issues of our health. Especially challenging would be if we need emergency services in a foreign country. Be Educated! Be Proactive!