“We’re driving to Alaska this summer, we are on Medicare, what happens if we get into an accident in Canada?”

-Lisa M, Iowa

Let’s set aside the fact that there are many factors that go into whether your health insurance, your automobile insurance, or the insurance of the person that hit you should pay medical bills in an accident. Let’s just, for the sake of clarity, talk about Medicare emergency coverage while traveling outside of the country.

Medicare does not cover you when you leave the country, except in a few very limited circumstances. But, a major one pertains to this question. Medicare will pay for emergency services in Canada if you are traveling “a direct route, without unreasonable delay, between Alaska and another state and the closest hospital that can treat you is in Canada.” So, if you are driving from any border state to Alaska, and you aren’t stopping to smell the roses, you should be covered.

I recommend that you still get additional insurance that will cover your medical needs when out of the country. Usually, this is done through travel insurance. And remember, you don’t have to insure your whole trip, just the portion that involves traveling through Canada. Additionally, if you have supplemental Medicare coverage (such as some Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans) may pay for emergency care outside of the country.

Those who are not on medicare should check to see what their policy covers, and look into supplemental travel insurance if need be.