Many Americans love to travel, and unfortunately they may not think about how to make sure they have care if they get sick or injured on the trip. Whether you are simply traveling temporarily or actually need health insurance while living abroad, international medical insurance is an important way to protect yourself financially.

What Travel Insurance Covers

Travel insurance is a helpful short-term policy that can cover a variety of needs, including trip interruption, medical care, evacuation, and baggage and flight insurance. A policy that covers all of these items is called a comprehensive travel insurance policy.

Many travelers choose to purchase only specific coverages. Those who do, often focus on travel health insurance. Before deciding if you should purchase travel insurance for medical needs, check with your current health insurer. They may already provide coverage for any medical needs where you are travelling. Keep in mind that Medicare does not extend outside the United States.

Depending on what types of coverage and deductibles your insurer offers, you may find it helpful to purchase a travel health insurance policy. Hospitals and doctors overseas will typically work with your travel health insurance for payment, but not with your U.S. coverage – you’ll have to pay up front and get reimbursed when you return home.

Travel insurance can vary widely depending on the provider and coverage offered. It is very age-dependent – prices increase dramatically for those over 50 and can be rather low-priced for those 17 and under.

If you decide you should buy travel insurance for medical needs, the State Department has a list of those who offer coverage. This can be a good place to start looking for international medical insurance.

Health Insurance for Living Abroad

Those living outside the United States for extended periods of time have different insurance needs than those who travel occasionally.

Americans who live outside the country only part of the time – 330 days or less per year – are still considered primary residents of the United States. As a result, any international medical insurance would need to meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or you may face a penalty under the law’s individual mandate. Those with work-based insurance from a U.S. employer, or Americans with Medicaid or Medicare, already have the coverage they need. Others would need to purchase qualifying insurance, either through the Marketplace or directly from an insurance company.

Americans who live outside the United States more than 330 days per year are not required to have ACA compliant coverage. These citizens are encouraged to obtain a policy that will provide treatment where they live.

Whether you travel or live abroad, you can’t afford to ignore possible health needs that may arise. By making sure you have appropriate international medical insurance, you will be protecting your health and your peace of mind as you travel.