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After working hard for many years, it’s time to treat yourself.

Retirement years are full of endless travel opportunities. There’s more time to play with grandchildren and more time to spend on undiscovered shores.

You probably have an idea about what toiletries to bring and the clothes you need to pack for a trip, but if you’re traveling with Medicare, there are more considerations and preparations to make before you go.

How to Travel With American Medicare

Consider Coverage While Traveling

Grandma traveler

Medicare coverage is limited if traveling outside of the country.

Medicare won’t pay for health care supplies or services unless you meet some of the few exceptions. For example, Medicare will cover expenses if you receive medical care on a cruise ship, but only while still in U.S. territorial waters.

Keep in mind, if you do happen to meet one of the rare requirements, you’ll still be required to pay the co-payment, co-insurance, and deductible customarily charged at home.

If you plan to travel domestically, you’re in for some luck. Coverage includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. But Medicare will only cover providers and facilities in-network.

If you want an extra piece of mind, purchase a Medicare supplement. Supplements provide more flexibility. You can visit any doctor that accepts Medicare, even if the physician isn’t in-network.

Best of all, there is no need for a referral and you’ll have help with the costs that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Refill Your Medications Ahead of Time

RF Medication pills drugs refill

Medicare will not cover medications purchased outside of the United States. So it’s important to call your pharmacy well ahead of your travel date, and ask for a travel override refill.

The pharmacy will take care of submitting the request to your insurance. Keep in mind that approvals take time, so request your refills as soon as possible.

Some approvals require proof of your upcoming international travel documentation. Pack enough medications to cover the entire duration of your travel, and bring extra in case of unexpected travel delays.

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Schedule a Visit With Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your physician at least four to six weeks out. At this visit, talk about your current health status and past medical history. Let your doctor know your itinerary, how long you’re staying, and the type of activities you have planned.

If you have certain pre-existing medical conditions or a low immune system, this will help them determine if you might need to alter travel activities or postpone your trip. No one wants to stay home, but keeping yourself safe is paramount. List your information and health conditions on an identification bracelet or necklace to wear.

Ask for a letter from your doctor if you have pre-existing conditions. It should contain a brief history of your medical conditions, current medications with the generic name, and the reasons for taking them. Carry this on your person while traveling; you might need it in case of a medical emergency.

Certain countries require specific vaccinations. Check with your doctor about immunizations you may need. The Centers for Disease Control offers a useful online travel tool. Select the type of travel and the country you will be traveling to, and the tool will determine the precautions to take there.

Plan for Emergencies

Grandma & Grandad Family

You can’t avoid an emergency, so take steps to protect your safety ahead of time. Take a close look at the activities you have planned and be realistic about any physical limitations you have. If you struggle with taxing activities, it’s best to steer clear of strenuous plans.

Leave your itinerary and lodging information with friends and family so they can locate you. Contact the local U.S. Embassy of the destination you’re traveling to ahead of time. The embassy can help find medical services, and contact your family in the case of an emergency.

If you’re traveling with Medicare, it’s essential to include these precautions on your to-do list. Being informed ahead of time will make for a relaxing visit.


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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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