Nobody likes getting sick or injured. It’s uncomfortable, inconvenient, and potentially costly. This is even more the case when you are a full-time traveler without a permanent residence or at least miles away from it. How do you seek medical assistance for something short of an emergency? How do you handle the associated expenses? Will your insurance cover them? Do you have insurance? If so, how much do you know about your coverage. It’s better to have a full understanding of your policy and make sure you have what you need before you actually need it.
First, if you already have health insurance, you need to ensure your plan covers full-time RVers, as some plans do not. Second, ascertain whether your plan covers you nation-wide or you are expected to receive all treatment near your “home base” (if you have one) from your primary care physician (again, if you have one). Last, compare your current plan to others available to decide what is best for your specific situation.
Generally, if you have a high deductible you’ll enjoy lower monthly payments. This can sometimes be paired with a Health Savings Account for emergencies. Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) are the only types of traditional health insurance plans that offer nation-wide coverage. Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPO) require you use a primary care provider within their network for all your needs. Even if you require a specialist, you have to first see and be referred to one by your primary doctor.
PPOs have a larger network to choose from with covered physicians across the country; therefore, they usually cost more than HMOs and EPOs. It truly is a tradeoff. If you rarely travel too far from your “home”, an HMO or EPO may be the way to go. If, however, your RV is your home, a PPO might make more sense.
Another option is to join a sharing ministry, which is typically a faith-based risk pool. These plans, such as Liberty Health Share and Samaritan Ministries, allow members to pay a low monthly fee with the understanding that they’ll help other plan members cover their medical bills when necessary.
The benefit of these plans is that the monthly rates are much less than more traditional plans. They are, however, faith based so they often do not cover illnesses or injuries that result from what they consider “risky behaviors”. Examples may include cancer caused from years of smoking or accidents caused from careless driving.
As I researched the topic, I came across this option and it is my new favorite. Previously, if I thought I was getting sick, I would immediately head to WebMD and begin self-diagnosing. After determining what horrifying ailment I must be suffering, I would spend a day or so trying to decide whether or not I wanted to try to find a doctor nearby and spend the time and money to discover if I was correct and receive treatment. I haven’t been correct yet, but the difficulty of seeking medical treatment on the road has caused me many sleepless nights and hours of needless worry.
Enter telemedicine from programs like Teledoc and Telehealth. For a very low monthly fee (and a reduced annual fee if paid as a lump sum), you have 24-hour access to long-distance clinical health care, consultation, diagnosis, and even prescriptions from U.S. board-certified, state-licensed physicians via apps, emails, phone calls, and video calls. This, all from the comfort of your RV, which has the added benefit of eliminating contact with the germs of other sick people in doctor’s office waiting rooms. Some of the programs also offer discounts for dental and eye appointments, as well as for prescriptions.
Staying Well on the Road
There are several things you can do to minimize your chance of requiring medical treatment at all, thereby reducing expenses. First, keep your RV maintained to avoid personal injury. These may be caused by mechanical problems that lead to a vehicular accident. On the other hand, they may result from a carbon monoxide leak or a fire due to an electrical problem.
Second, avoid contact with bacteria. Make sure that the water you ingest is labeled “potable” or “for drinking”. Try to always use a water filter (we have one attached to the outside water hose and another for the drinking water spout at the kitchen sink), and if you’re unsure, boil drinking and cooking water for over three minutes before using or consume bottled water. Also, monitor the temperature of your refrigerator to keep food from spoiling. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly when getting rid of food that’s gone bad, as well as after handling the black and gray water hoses.
Third, be proactive with your health. Eat well and exercise. Take vitamins, reduce stress, and get proper, good-quality sleep. Keep plants in your RV to improve the air quality and open the windows periodically to let in fresh air. Communicate with your primary care physician about your lifestyle, especially if you have chronic or long-term health issues. Discuss the best ways to ensure you are never without medication that you depend on. Find out what nation-wide pharmacies they work with and whether they are willing to recommend remotely located clinics, etc.In Conclusion
Getting appropriate healthcare services while on the road can be more than a little challenging. As an RVer, there may be times that you are across the country from your favorite provider. In fact, you may have avoided seeking medical attention because of the complexity of finding an adequate substitute that you could trust and afford. Hopefully, by getting a flexible insurance plan, communicating with an understanding primary physician, and supplementing with telemedicine for intermittent issues, you will have all of you needs covered. Of course, as the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So take care out there!