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Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad

Before traveling abroad, American citizens should know about the services that are offered by the U.S. embassies and consulates. U.S. consular officers can help in finding medical care, transferring funds, and telling relatives about a health condition should an illness happen during travel.

But U.S. consular officers can't act as lawyers or bankers. Plus, payment of hospital and other expenses is the responsibility of the traveler. Many health insurance companies will pay "customary and reasonable" hospital costs abroad. But very few will pay for a medical return to the U.S. Medical evacuation can easily cost $25,000 or more, even more than $100,000, depending on your location and health condition. Some private supplemental travel insurance plans provide coverage for overseas medical costs as well as your medical return. The Medicare program doesn't provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the U.S. in most cases. Older adults may learn more about foreign medical coverage with Medicare supplement plans by contacting AARP at 888-OUR-AARP (888-687-2277).  

Foreign hospitals aren’t required to file Medicare claims for your travel medical costs. You need to submit an itemized bill to Medicare for your healthcare provider, inpatient, and ambulance services if both of the following apply:

  • You're admitted to a foreign hospital under one of the situations above

  • The foreign hospital doesn't submit Medicare claims for you

Be prepared before you travel

The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs advises the following for international travelers:

  • Learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas before going abroad.

  • Carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of insurance as well as a claim form.

  • When going abroad with any pre-existing health problems, carry a letter from your healthcare provider describing the health condition, and any prescription medicines. This should include the generic name of medicines.

  • Keep medicines in their original containers and be sure they are clearly labeled.

  • Make sure the prescribed or needed medicines are not considered to be illegal in your layover or destination countries. Common drug categories considered illegal include narcotics, stimulants and psychotropic medicines, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics. Contact the foreign embassies before you travel.

  • Complete the information page on the inside of your passport. List the name, address, and phone number of someone to be contacted in an emergency.

  • Take a listing of addresses and telephone numbers of U.S. embassies and consulates in the countries you will visit. They keep a list of hospitals and healthcare providers in the area.  

  • You will need to personally submit an itemized bill to Medicare for your healthcare provider, inpatient, and ambulance services if you have Medicare and are admitted to a foreign hospital. This is if the hospital doesn't submit Medicare claims.

  • Medicare has limited travel medical coverage outside the U.S. People often choose to buy travel insurance to get extra coverage. Read policies carefully before you buy. Travel insurance policies don't necessarily include health insurance.

  • Some countries require foreign visitors to have vaccines or medical tests before entering. At least 4 to 6 weeks before traveling, check the latest entry requirements with the CDC travelers' website, the foreign embassy of the country to be visited, or a dedicated travel clinic.

Visit the CDC website for current international travel advice and restrictions

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2023
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