The lack of good healthcare coverage keeps many aspiring full-timers from taking the plunge. Many wait until they’re old enough to sign up for Medicare and who can blame them? Getting affordable, good medical insurance and finding a doctor on the road is an ordeal.
Here’s a quick synopsis of my own full-timer’s health insurance guide to medical care for those of us with HMO policies.
Common hurdles to finding care on the road
As I mentioned before, many healthcare insurance providers in the best domicile states for full-time RVers have dropped their Preferred Provider Option (PPO) insurance plans from the government healthcare exchange.
Residents of these states who are too young for Medicare are now forced to go with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) in order to receive affordable health coverage. Unfortunately, HMO requires members to obtain care in their home states.
To save $400 a month, I enrolled with a Texas-based HMO. Since then, I’ve learned some lessons about full-timers health insurance and getting care on the road under an HMO plan.
Lessons learned about full-timers health insurance
Choose your plan carefully before enrolling and ask yourself, “What’s your life worth?” HMO plans cut costs by putting treatment care decisions in the hands of primary care physicians. Members must see their designated primary care doctor in person before they can receive a specialist referral, and only if their doctor gives a green light. This just isn’t practical for full-timers like me who roam around the U.S.
During the next open enrollment season, I’ll do what it takes to afford a better policy, even if it means my husband and I lose our government subsidy. After watching another full-timer fight cancer under the sad state of U.S. health care, I never want to be in a spot where an HMO bureaucrat decides that my life isn’t worth the cost of cutting-edge treatment.
Choose your primary care physician wisely. During my policy’s online enrollment process, I was prompted to choose a MD based on my official address. In my case, that’s Livingston, TX – which isn’t exactly cosmopolitan. I had no idea that I could choose a primary care physician anywhere in Texas. After a horrible experience at a Livingston clinic, I learned that I could choose a doctor in more urban areas like Austin or San Antonio. Ask other RVers in your home state for primary care physician recommendations and scour online for reviews with services like Angie’s List before choosing the doctor who will make treatment decisions for you.
Don’t go to the emergency room unless you really need to. HMO’s don’t cover out-of-state care unless they’re approved emergencies. Twice last season while traveling throughout the Southwest I thought I needed medical care, but each time I gave it careful consideration and opted out. Thankfully I was fine. I hope I never need serious medical care while we’re with this HMO. If I do, I must go back to my home state to get it.
Have a plan for out-of-state care. I chose a Teladoc subscription for peace of mind when traveling outside of Texas. This membership-based program provides 24/7 phone and internet access to U.S.-licensed medical doctors anywhere in the country. It’s the best way to decide if I need to visit a walk-in clinic or call an ambulance.
Since January I’ve learned to be a better consumer about which plans I choose. Still, I won’t let bad policy and corporations dictate how I choose to live my life. Full-time RVing still has far too many bonuses to stay in one place.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.