As the world opens more during the pandemic, planning a cruise may be at the top of your agenda. You might think about a cruise to Alaska to see the glaciers and whales or the Caribbean to see the crystal blue water and white beaches. Once you choose your destination, you will likely start to look at excursions you can participate in and schedule. Even though you may decide never to get off the cruise during the vacation, you will likely research all the activities you can do while on the cruise ship.
You may spend hours researching the cruise ship and solidifying your transportation and activities, but you probably did not think about your health insurance. If you are 65 or older, then your primary health insurance is likely to be Medicare. If so, you’ll want to know whether Medicare will cover you on a cruise before you go.
Original Medicare coverage on a cruise
Original Medicare consists of Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A provides inpatient hospital coverage while Medicare Part B provides outpatient medical coverage. Original Medicare is a nationwide insurance program that can be used in any state within the U.S. Although you will have coverage across the U.S., you will want to be sure your provider accepts Original Medicare. If they do, then you will have hospital and medical coverage.
However, on a cruise ship, your Original Medicare coverage can be different depending on how far from the port you are at the time of the incident. If the ship is within 6 hours from a U.S. port, then Medicare may cover the medically necessary services that you receive on the ship. On the other hand, if you are more than 6 hours away from a U.S. port, then Medicare would not cover the services that you would receive on the ship.
You would want to know that the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico are all part of the U.S. Therefore, you would have Medicare coverage if you were visiting those countries.
Medicare Supplement plans and cruise ship coverage
Medicare Supplement plans are also known as Medigap plans. These plans are designed to help cover the costs that Medicare doesn’t cover for you. You can often get 100% coverage for hospital and medical services when you have Medicare and a Medigap plan. Although Medicare only has a few exceptions on foreign travel coverage, Medigap plans can offer emergency coverage.
Medigap plans C, D, F, G, M, and N, will provide 80% coverage on foreign travel emergencies within the first 60 days of travel after you have paid the $250 deductible. If you are within the 6-hour limit from a U.S. port, the Medigap plan will help cover costs, just like if you were within the U.S. However, when you are outside of the U.S., you would only have emergency coverage with your Medigap plan.
Cruise ship coverage with a Medicare Advantage plan
Medicare Advantage plans are an alternative way to receive Medicare Part A and Part B benefits. You can also have drug coverage bundled into these plans. However, you will have a network of providers that you must see to have coverage with your plan. Some plans, such as PPO plans, can provide you with a more extensive range of providers.
If you were on a cruise ship and within 6 hours from a U.S. port, then you may have coverage if a doctor performs a medical service. However, there is also a chance that the Advantage plan could deny the claim since you might be out of network. Advantage plans do provide worldwide emergency coverage, but that would be for emergencies only. So, if the incident is not an emergency, then you may not have coverage.
Your coverage on a cruise ship will depend on if you have Original Medicare only or if you are also enrolled in a Medigap plan or Medicare Advantage plan. Your coverage will also depend on the location of the cruise and how far away you are from the U.S. port. You will want to view your plan’s coverage details to know exactly how you may be covered.