Health Insurance On The Road
The mere mention of health care can send the most steadfast person into a dull fog and reduce the weaker to a blubbering mass. Health care and, more specifically, health insurance is an overwhelming issue. There’s literally thousands of options out there and reading insurance contracts requires a strong pot of espresso and a iron-willed attitude.
What Are My Options?
We’re too young for Medicare, and we don’t have any government or military benefits so we needed to find a private, affordable option. The 3 main choices for full-timers such as ourselves are:
- No Insurance – wing it and see what happens
- Traditional Plans – Such as Blue Cross, Blue Shield etc.
- Catastrophic Insurance – an insurance that only covers catastrophic events (really a sub-set of #2 with higher deductibles)
Choosing the Type of Insurance
So, how do you choose what you need? Insurance is a risk assessment. In our case we’re in great physical health, keep tabs on our blood-work ourselves (and know how to read and interpret the labs), don’t have any weight issues and are very conscious of our nutrition and exercise. So, what we needed wasn’t something to cover everyday life, but something to cover the unexpected. We weren’t prepared to go for #1 and in fact I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone. All our research on #2 showed it was too expensive. So, #3 turned out to be the winner.
Once we decided on the basic idea we were off to research options. By far the easiest and most comprehensive on-line site we found was eHealthInsurance. You enter your state and birthdate and you get a bunch of options. The site will show you the following:
- Plan type = for example network, or PPO
- Deductible = how much you have to pay before the insurance kicks in
- Co-insurance = how much you have to pay once your deductible is used up (usually expressed as a percentage between 0-30%)
- Office visit = how much, if any, you have to pay for each office visit (sometimes called co-pay)
- Lifetime maximum = how much in total the insurance will pay over your lifetime, expressed either per person or total (for the family)
For “catastrophic” insurance you’re only looking to cover the big-ticket items. So, you want a very high deductible, 0% co-insurance and a high lifetime maximum. Basically this means you’re willing to pay for any small-time or regular annual check-ups yourself and use the insurance only if something major happens (major accident, major long-term health issue etc.).
The Final $$
Based on above, we found a plan with $10,000 deductible, 0% co-insurance and $5 million (per person) lifetime benefit that cost $150/month ($1,800/year) total for the both of us combined. If something really bad happens we’ll be paying $10,000 out-of-pocket, but then we’re completely covered. That’s totally reasonable and within our comfort zone.
The deductible is a big factor in the final $$. The lower you want it, the more you’re going to pay so you have to assess if it’s worth the extra moolah for you. Had we gone with a $1,500 deductible we’d be paying anywhere from $350 to $500/month. That means instead of $1,800 per year we’d pay $4,200 to $6,000 per year. We keep a close track of our expenses and in the past 10 years we’ve never used more than $2,000 per year on any medical issue, routine, emergency or otherwise, so it simply didn’t make sense to cough up the extra cash.
For your own case, you’ll have to decide, based on your own health and situation what makes most sense for you and your family. If you have kids or on-going medical issues that require regular attention it may make sense to pay for lower deductible or enter one of the State-sponsored High Risk Insurance Pools . If you’re like us, in good health and just need to cover the “big scare” it probably makes sense to pay less and go for the higher deductible. Look at your history, sum up old expenses and see what makes sense.
If I haven’t put you to sleep by now, I applaud your stubbornness and wish you healthy RV travels for many years to come.