Traveling to a new and unknown place — or even a familiar one — can be a stressful time. Add someone getting sick along the way, and you have the perfect storm! Here are a few ways to help make it more manageable if someone gets sick or hurt on the road.
When you get to a new location make sure you know the location of the nearest hospital, walk-in clinic, urgent care center and emergency room. Then, take it a step further and verify that your insurance covers visits to all these locations. If not, make sure you find the closest location that is covered. The last thing you want to worry about in an emergency situation is your insurance. Also, be sure to carry your insurance cards with you in case something happens when away from your RV or campground.
Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared when our 5-year-old fell and dislocated and broke his elbow. It was our first full day in a new location, and we were out at a local attraction. After he fell, I ran in circles looking for someone who worked at the place to tell me where the closest ER was. Of course, their instructions meant nothing since I didn’t know the roads.
Thank goodness for Google Maps! If I’d researched, I would’ve known where to go. We took him to the closest ER; however, after he was treated, we found out there was a children’s emergency room just a few miles further away. Luckily, we had a wonderful doctor, so maybe it was for the better. But, usually, with kids, you would rather have them seen by a pediatric specialist.
Once the emergency event is out of the way, there is more fun ahead if you need continued treatment, and you won’t be in the same area the whole time. You’d think, in this day and age, all patient records would be stored in a universal database so that all doctors’ offices could access them. But, that’s not the case. A lot of doctor’s offices have different procedures in place and they’re not used to dealing with patients in mid-treatment.
So, to help things go more smoothly, when you talk to your first doctor, explain your situation and where you’re going next. If you’re lucky, your doctor will know a physician in the next city to whom he or she can make a referral and contact to explain the situation. This makes it much easier.
After our son broke his arm, he needed surgery. Luckily, the doctor knew someone in the location we would be when the cast needed to be removed. He emailed him and explained the situation. However, in between those visits, our son needed more X-rays. I guess it isn’t every day that someone comes into a clinic and just asks for an x-ray to be taken and emailed to another doctor. I couldn’t believe that with medical centers moving toward digital X-rays that the technician didn’t have the capability to email an x-ray. So, I walked out of the clinic with a CD, actual x-rays and a few other folders with additional information.
The funny thing is that I ended up just taking a picture of the x-ray printout with my cell phone and emailing that to my son’s doctor and it worked perfectly. I didn’t even need to spend the $20 to mail him the CD. Again, medical people aren’t usually confronted with this situation, so you have to be proactive in figuring out what to do to ensure you receive the best care possible.
The fun continues when you call to make an appointment at the next doctor’s office. Even though the doctors have probably already talked about the situation and planned a course of action, that doesn’t mean the person making appointments is aware of that plan. In fact, the receptionist probably never met the doctor who works in a different location. So, she probably has absolutely no idea what is going on.
After a bit of a runaround and explaining the problem a couple of times, the scheduler finally got in touch with their doctor and confirmed the situation. We were in and the appointment was set.
But, when you show up for the appointment, everyone looks at you like you’re crazy. “You want us to take the cast off? Didn’t you just get it put on?”
After explaining that my son had been wearing the cast for four weeks, and that one of their doctors is familiar with the problem, they still insist on another round of x-rays which confirm, low and behold, that his elbow is healed. We weren’t lying about him having worn it for four weeks!
In hindsight, it would have been better had the original doctor made an appointment for us with the followup doctor so that both physicians and medical centers could get the information they needed before we brought in a fidgeting child.
Once all the treatment is completed, next come all the insurance bills — and now your insurance company is so confused as to why you were treated by two doctors in two different facilities miles away from each other. Insurance hassles could be the topic of a whole new post. So, I’ll just recommend that you contact your insurance company right away, before the first bills start coming in, to explain the situation and ensure you have enough information to answer their questions.
Yes, it’s scary and stressful when someone gets sick on the road, but it’s not a reason to avoid travel. You will figure it out, and you will make it work. Just remember these tips:
- Locate the nearest emergency room, hospital, walk-in clinic, urgent care center and pharmacy when you get to a new location.
- Check your insurance to make sure the locations you may visit are covered.
- Be proactive when making follow-up appointments to figure out the best way to get things done.
- Be prepared for a lot of push-back and confusion when going to a new doctor’s office.
- Be proactive and call your insurance company right away to explain the situation as soon as you get your first bill, if not before.
An option to insurance
Some full-time RVers are discovering there is an option to dealing with health insurance companies while on the road, and that is to join a medical bill sharing service. Christian Healthcare Ministries is one such option available to people of the Christian faith, and something that Let’s RV Editor Greg Gerber relies upon during his travel.
The service, which enjoys an Obamacare exemption, is not insurance in the legal sense; however, the company reports it has not denied an eligible claim during the 34 years it has been in operation. Here’s how it works.
The program offers three levels of service: $45 (bronze), $85 (silver) to $150 (gold) per “unit,” per month with personal responsibility (deductibles) ranging from $5,000 per incident to $500, depending upon plan. Coverage is capped at $125,000 per incident. A broken leg would be one incident, while gall bladder removal would be another, and pneumonia yet another. Members subscribing to the ministry’s “Brother’s Keeper” program can opt to pay an extra $45 per unit, per quarter and receive additional support per incident, up to unlimited at the gold level.
A “unit” is a participating individual. So a single person is one unit, and a married couple is considered two units. However, families are three units regardless of the number of dependent children. That means, the monthly costs for the best program offered by the ministry (gold) is capped at $450 per family! How does that compare to traditional insurance?
All the money submitted by members each month is pooled together and then used to pay any medical expenses incurred.
There are no restrictions as to where people can go to receive coverage. You can pick your own doctor, your own hospitals and your own clinics. When registering, just explain you are a self-pay patient who is a member of Christian Health Ministries, and that the group will help pay the bills.
When asked, many medical centers offer discounts up to 40 percent to self-pay patients, and the service is willing to help negotiate discounts by noting that the facility will receive faster payments with less paperwork.
Once discounted bills arrive in the mail, they are submitted to the ministry for processing and payment. Easy, simple, inexpensive — the way healthcare should be.
For more information about Christian Health Ministries, click here.