Health insurance options (or lack thereof)

Seeing as how this topic is bound to come up again in this blog – and maybe end up becoming a major theme (although I hope not) – I figured I’d start it now… We’re looking for health insurance. In the USA. And it’s not looking great.

Before we left for our adventures we were covered through the school district. Since I worked as a teacher I was able to cover the whole family for a very reasonable amount. It was decent coverage. Life was good.

Once we left the USA, we converted to a high-deductible policy through IMG that was designed for expats and long-term travelers. We’ve never had reason to file a claim so I have no idea if they are any good or not (have heard good reports from other travelers), but knowing that we have a policy has given me tremendous peace of mind over the years. (I’ve written about health insurance here)

Now we’re back in the USA and hoping to stay here. IMG stipulates that we be out of the country for at least six months each year in order to continue coverage, so we had hoped to find something else. So far, my (admittedly very  basic) search has led me nowhere.

Seeing as how we are covered until January 1, 2012 I haven’t spent a lot of time on this issue yet, but I have to say I’m stunned. Truly blown away. Yes – I’ve read loads of articles about how unaffordable health insurance is in the USA, but I didn’t “get it” – until now.

Right now we are living on the income generated by rental properties we own and the small amount this website is generating. Our needs are basic and we live frugally. We’re currently living on about half of what I used to make as a teacher – but I’m not complaining. At this point in time, we prefer the freedom of this life to the constraints of a classroom.

A quick check of health insurance policies floored me – if we were to switch to another policy, we would be paying every penny we have coming in for insurance. EVERY PENNY! JUST FOR HEALTH INSURANCE! That would leave nothing to buy food, nothing to pay electricity, not a single red cent for clothes or bike parts or – God forbid – to see a doctor. Every dollar we bring in would go for paying the health insurance.

Seeing as how we aren’t bringing in a lot, I wondered if maybe we would qualify for low-income health insurance. Holy Mother of God!! We would have to be living on less than $382 for a family of four to qualify! That’s just downright insane. NOBODY can live for less than $382/month for four people in the USA! You just can’t do it.

At this point we don’t know what we will do come January. Our hope is that we’ll find some sort of affordable policy out there. Maybe one of us will try and find a job with benefits just so we can get health insurance. Maybe we’ll leave the country and hit the road again.

I don’t know, but it makes me very, very angry that we may have to leave the United States of America – our own country – because we can’t afford health insurance here. I can’t believe that is a very real possibility in our lives.

Maybe we’ll go back to Nicaragua where they have great, free medical care. But dang – I had hoped to live happily ever after in the US of A.


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books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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25 Responses to Health insurance options (or lack thereof)

  1. CanCan June 4, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    We used IMG for years and it was great, we had to call upon it when my husband got hemorragic dengue.
    When I was in the states, both of my kids were born on medicaid. Yep.

  2. Megan June 4, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    It’s amusing that your Google ad is a health insurance! As someone who was uninsured after my last RTW for many years I understand. If looking for a policy for a single person under 30 is difficult I can’t imagine a family.

    I also used IMG on the road but never made a claim. Have you been denied for insurance at all? If you have you can qualify for a high risk pool The old pools were really expensive but the new temporary one created after the new health insurance reform bill went through is actually really affordable – at least in Illinois. Each state is different. Good luck!

  3. Nancy June 4, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    No Megan, we’ve never been denied coverage – we were always covered through our teaching jobs and then we switched to IMG.

    I went without health insurance on our 1-year bike trip through Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh years ago and, in hindsight, it was a very dumb thing to do! I didn’t even think about it at the time and certainly had no idea what the cost of treatment would have been if something had happened.

  4. Miss Britt June 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Hmmm… I wonder if you’re looking for really good coverage? Our family of four is covered for a little more than $300 per month. We use a company called Golden Rule.

  5. Nancy June 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Wow! I’ll check that out – haven’t seen them mentioned anywhere.

  6. Nancy June 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Just checked that out Britt – Golden Rule referred me to someone else and they actually found a policy that is significantly less than the others I’ve seen. It’s still about $1500/year more than we’re paying now, but we might be able to swing it. I’ll have to look at the details and see what they cover. Thanks!

  7. Steve June 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    Considering your “can-do” on-the-road biking life, you might be interested in checking out:

    This is an amazing website about a simple, self-help healing technique (EFT) that can bring relief for all kinds of emotional and physical problems, and even your boys could do it.

    When you start reading there, you might think it’s too good to be true…but it’s not. It’s being used all over the world, even though many people have never heard of it.

  8. Erin June 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    We’re in a similar boat here – live frugally, but can’t afford any health insurance (at least not one that actually covers anything and has a deductible we could possibly pay). Kids are covered through a generous state medicaid program for low income kids, and we adults go without.

  9. John Higham June 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    IMG’s great. We used it for our RTW and yes, we filed a claim and they were great to work with.

  10. Catherine June 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    We’re using Blue Cross Blue Shield (of Texas) for $334 a month for a family of 4. $5,000 deductible. They do raise their prices every year or two, though.

  11. Tracie June 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    That sucks! 🙁 We have independent insurance too (Blue Cross Blue Shield) and pay about $600 a month with a $1000 deductible. I worry about being dropped because we aren’t on a group policy.

    I’ve been hearing of folks retiring in central America or Mexico just to afford health care. Kind of sad.

  12. Liz June 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    Good luck with the insurance. I work at a school through the BSD (I’m a tutor) and I’m having to drop our medical coverage…..$800 for two kids & my spouse. For the next school year, the rate is going up 15%.

  13. Amy @LivinOnTheRoad June 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Posts like this make me so relieved to be Australian! Our health system has many of the same problems as yours, but all citizens and permanent residents are eligible for medicare health insurance, it’s just that higher income earners (a family ~$100,000/year) have a surcharge of a little extra tax each year, or the option to take out private health insurance.

  14. mrbill June 5, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Glad I’m a Veteran, it’s better than nothing, I can’t afford Health Insurance. Insurance has really got things screwed up, needs to be regulated. Pretty sad when I can get medical help in Mexico and not in the good old US of A

  15. Jessica June 5, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Husband and I have been on the “don’t get sick” plan for the last 2 1/2 years since he separated from the military…

  16. Torre (@fearfulgirl) June 5, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    One way that the USA ensures its citizens plug into the matrix.

  17. Bruce June 5, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

    That’s one major reason to live and work abroad in a country with free medical care. Eventually establish residency and a passport and setup yourself as well as your kids with free healthcare for life. Not to mention providing your kids future work opportunities on more than one continent. We feel its one of the best things we can do for our kids.

  18. mel June 7, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    Here in Montana, we were able to get our kids on Healthy Montana Kids, which used to be CHIP (children’s health insurance program). We don’t make a lot, but the requirement is double or trible the poverty level. There must be something like that in Idaho. It won’t help you and John, but it’s pretty good coverage for the kids and then you only have to pay for two people with private insruance.
    I didn’t look at this closely, but it’s the Idaho version:

  19. suertes June 7, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    You could always come back to Malaysia. Decent standard of basic medical care available, at pretty cheap prices. Most people here do live with little or no medical insurance here, so it’s a bit of a gamble, but they do generally get what they need, even if it would cost a lot out of savings.

  20. Claire June 7, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    It takes a year to be eligible, but I know people who work at UPS unloading planes early in the morning 2.5 hours a day several days a week. It doesn’t pay a ton (about $10/hr), but after the first year they cover the whole family without premiums and the co-pays are very low. They cover healthcare for part-time employees the same as full-time which is so uncommon. Good luck!

  21. Megan June 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    No Megan, we’ve never been denied coverage – we were always covered through our teaching jobs and then we switched to IMG.

    If it happens that you end up in that boat, where you apply and are denied keep the state programs in mind. I know, at the very least, children’s insurance is easier to qualify for i nIllinois. I’m not sure about Iowa.

    Make sure you do a little research on any small insurance companies you think about using. I ended up with Blue Cross. Golden Rule was cheap but has so many bad reviews about sneaky practices that I didn’t go with them. These days anything under $1500 deductible is luxurious. Look at $1,500 – $5,000 deductible plans if you’re all healthy right now.

  22. Nancy August 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Trust me – we’ve thought about that option. Many times.

  23. Lina Mcfadden December 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    We’re using Blue Cross Blue Shield (of Texas) for $334 a month for a family of 4. I didn’t even think about it at the time and certainly had no idea what the cost of treatment would have been if something had happened.

    • Nancy December 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm #

      @Lina Mcfadden,
      I just applied for Blue Cross of Idaho for about the same amount as you’re paying – just for me and John. Fortunately, we’ve been able to get the boys covered through the state so it’s just the two of us we need to consider. I hope Blue Cross accepts us!

  24. Phillip Medicare Liens December 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Hmmm..definitely some interesting points made in this post. Maybe I’ll just move to Canada for free health care 🙂

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