What we do about health care

There is a lot of discussion online in the RV world about how different folks handle their healthcare issues while traveling around the country.  On Medicare or private insurance?  In Network or Out of Network?  Prescriptions, routine doctor visits, diagnostics, and more issues to consider and work out.

I thought I’d share how things are working out for us.

Employer-Offered Group Plan

Before we hit the road, we had been “self-pay” for about 10 years.  That is to say, we had no medical insurance and we had to pay our own way.  Kathy had worked for the school system for 25 years where we used the group plan offered there, but the last 5 years or so of her career the school made the decision to terminate all the teacher’s aides and have them re-hired by an outside contractor that did not provide any health benefits.  

I had a heart attack in 2003 and as a result could not find any affordable health insurance plan for the both of us once Kathy’s plan was cancelled because of my pre-existing condition.

Since I owned my own small real estate business (an LLC), I was able to find an insurance broker who was able to form a “group of two” for Kathy and me to get some coverage.  First year it was $750/month, 2nd year it went to $1000/month, and the third year it went to $1250/month and that was in 2008 when the real estate market was collapsing in Ohio and sales were way down and we had to drop the plan.

We were once again on our own, hoping that nothing catastrophic came along.  We continued to pay our own; office visits, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, etc and just prayed that neither of us had a stroke, was diagnosed with cancer, or some other terrible (and costly) disease or ailment.

In 2010 Obamacare was introduced and in due time it became the law of the land and everyone was going to be required to sign up …. or else.

The Obamacare “Silver” plan was going to cost us about $1250/month AND $12,000 out of pocket for a $27,000 annual total cost before they picked up the rest.  No thank you sir ….

And then it happened …

In 2013 Kathy was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  It was detected early, a total radical hysterectomy was performed and to this day she is cancer free and was not required to go through any radiation or chemo-therapy. We were (and are) truly blessed.

But how did we handle the financial burden associated with such a catastrophic illness?

We found, since we were self-pay, that at the time of registration at the hospital they asked for a small down payment ($500) and a commitment to pay monthly some “agreed upon” amount.  At the time I was still working and we agreed to pay $500 every month until the total bill was paid off.  We could have committed to as little as $25 monthly. After her surgery and during recuperation the bill came at just about $35,000 but was discounted to approximately $22,000 because we were self-pay.  We paid more when we could and got the bill paid off in about 3 years.

Click on this image for a larger view that you can read

We’ve since found an alternative to paying our own way and/or group health insurance.  We found Medical Cost Sharing through Christian Healthcare Ministries.  Here’s a quick synopsis of CHM’s programs.  We pay $300/monthly for BOTH of us to receive GOLD coverage.  Because we also subscribe to their Brother’s Keeper Program, our reimbursement per illness is unlimited.  The Brother’s Keeper additional quarterly donation varies, but is usually around $30-$50 per quarter.

With CHM, we are the “Financially Responsible Party” and the bill comes directly to us.  We ask for self-pay discounts up front and we generally get them.  We submit our bills to CHM and in 2-3 months we are reimbursed.  Since it’s a religious based program, this qualifies for an exemption from the requirements of Obamacare.  Here’s a link to a 5 minute YouTube video explaining how CHM works.

Urgent Care

Although our doctors are back in Ohio, when we were in Arizona it was necessary for me to go to urgent care for treatment.  They had a program where you become a “member” almost like a gym membership and pay a monthly fee so you can go anytime without further cost and you can cancel anytime.

The visit would have cost me $650 (there was a small surgical procedure involved), but under the membership program they offered, I only paid $105 that night (for the first 3 months) and then would have continued to pay $35/month after the first 90 days, but we cancelled the program since we were leaving and heading to Michigan for our summer workamping gig.

Here in Michigan, I again needed to visit Urgent Care at the local hospital for what I thought might have been a sprain in my left hand/thumb.  We were greeted and I was served right away (it was an early morning visit), vitals and history were taken by the Physician’s Assistant and then the Doctor met with me and diagnosed Tendonitis.  He prescribed rest and a mild inflamatory, and installed a splint.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We walked out the door paying nothing at the time of service and were billed later a TOTAL of only $100!  I believe if I were covered by insurance, the bill would very likely have been at least a few hundred dollars.

Prescriptions and Medications

We pay our own way on prescriptions and medications.  We’ve found however, the value in comparison shopping.  Again, when we were in AZ last winter, one of my meds was going to cost $453 at CVS, but we got it at Fry’s (Kroger) for $32.  Here is a clip I just took from GoodRX.com this afternoon just to show you an example of the varying prices.  When you are paying cash for meds, this can make a big difference in the monthly budget.

Kathy uses an insulin pen and has found coupons online for a $100 discount on a 5-pen pack.  Although we still pay over $300 for that med, the $100 discount helps.

Last week I needed to refill my statin and found that Meijer offers a FREE 90 day supply.  I asked when this offer expires and the pharmacy tech told me it has no end date.  Guess I’ll be going to Meijer from now on for that!  Free is good!

All in all, we’re pretty pleased with the “HerbnKathy” medical plan.  So far this year (Jan-Sept) we’ve spent;

Kathy and I both had need for chiropractic when we were in AZ which made up about $700 of the $1567, and we won’t be needing that any longer.

The other large cost is the $1200 for medicine.  We use generics wherever we can, but Kathy’s diabetes pen is brand name, not generic hence the high cost for meds.

Still I feel comfortable with the $800 average monthly costs.  Hopefully we can stay generally healthy, at least until Medicare kicks in at 65, (two more years down the road).

I know there’s a lot of different ways to get the health care we need and this is just the way we do it.  It’s not the least expensive, it’s not perfect, and there’s always the “what if”, but if we lived our lives around the “what ifs” then we’d live a pretty sheltered life … not the one we choose to live.

I hope you found some value in this discussion that will help you as you weigh your health care options in your full time RV life.

Safe travels, good luck, and by all means …. have fun!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Old Home Week in S.E. Michigan

We left our “old” home in Mount Gilead, OH on May 1st and headed north to Wixom, MI area where we stayed at Proud Lake Recreation Area State Park for the week.  Our intent was to relax and enjoy the spring weather and see some long-time friends while we were there.  I wrote this earlier post with some pictures of the park.  It was COLD and RAINY nearly all week, but we had a great time nonetheless because we were able to hook up with friends from WAY BACK.

Sandy is the first little girl in the bottom row, I’m the kid in the top row, 3rd from the right, striped long sleeve shirt

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had wonderful visits with old friends.  Some of these folks we haven’t seen in 30 or 40+ years.  Thanks to Facebook, we’ve been able to reconnect to lost friendships.  It’s so easy as we get busy with our; jobs/kids/school/sports/hobbies/parents/ etc.  to lose touch with those we once considered “very good” if not “best” friends.

We left Proud Lake on Sunday May 7th and had two more visits on our agenda as we continued our travel north to Baldwin, MI for our summer workamping job.

Trip Map From Proud Lake Rec Area to Delton, Spring Lake, Baldwin, MI

Who’s in Delton you ask?  Thanks to Facebook, I was able to find George Williston.  I hadn’t seen or even talked to George since 1960 when my family moved from Detroit out to Redford Township.  I had attended Kindergarten and first grade in Detroit, where I met George.  I lived with my folks and two older sisters on Monte Vista and George lived with his family on Pinehurst, next street over on the other side of the alley.  George and I used the alley as the shortcut from his house to mine.

13116 Monte Vista, Detroit
The home I grew up in from 1954 to 1960 – Now just a shell

It’s a shame to see what the house and the neighborhood have become.  I have some great memories of that home, our neighbors (the McGraw family) where there’s now just an empty lot, and my time playing (and causing a little trouble I’m sure) with my best friend George Williston.

Kathy and I met George and his wonderful wife Kelly where we enjoyed a light lunch in their beautiful home nestled in the woods.  In addition to having been a Wood Shop Industrial Arts teacher, George is also an accomplished writer.   You can order his book “This Tribe of Mine” on Amazon.

After our lunch and a nice walk around the property, we said goodbye to George and Kelly and headed further west and north to Spring Lake, Michigan where we met up with Brian Barker and his wife Connie.  Kathy and I went to Junior High and High School with Brian and we had a lot of great memories to talk about.  I had seen Brian and Connie when they lived in the Cincinnati area back a while but it’s been at least 20 years.  Kathy had never met Connie and hadn’t seen Brian in at least 35 years.

Herb, Kathy, Brian, and Connie

Brian and Connie live in a beautiful home just across from Spring Lake.  Great view and it’s easy to carry their kayaks over for an afternoon cruise.

Again, it was great to spend time with old friends and catch up on some mutual memories.

My next post will be an introduction to Baldwin, MI and Pere Marquette Oaks RV Resort.

That’s all for now.  Stay happy.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Familiar Faces in New Places

It’s been a wonderful two weeks since we left our (new) good friends at Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde, AZ.

After spending 6 months there living and working side by side with these folks, they became more than just “other RV’ers” and we’ll certainly miss them and look forward to when we are out in AZ again and can renew those friendships.

But, it was time to head east (and north) so we can see friends and family in Ohio and then on to Michigan for our summer workamping gig.

The trip so far has been uneventful (with regard to problems) and that’s a good thing.  The coach has performed flawlessly and we are hoping that we have now addressed all the issues there and that we’ll have smooth sailing for the foreseeable future.  We know that something will happen eventually, but treating her kindly (gentle driving and regular scheduled maintenance) will hopefully serve us well as we continue this new journey in our lives.

By “Uneventful” I meant that the parks we stopped at along the way were, for the most part very nice parks, the roads were smooth, there were no traffic jams.

We stayed 3 nights at the Escapees “Rainbow Plantation” in Summerdale, AL and one of those nights we decided to take advantage of their invite to dinner.  There were 140 of us in the clubhouse for lasagna dinner that night and one of the name tags caught my eye.

The name “Don Phelps” sounded familiar and so during dinner I studied his face trying to figure out if I knew this man.

After dinner I was nearly 100% sure this was “the guy” and so I approached him, asked if he used to live in Michigan, and if he

Don (from Xerox) and Elaine Phelps at the table next to us.

had served as a Field Service Manager at Xerox in the Detroit area.  Yes, this was the guy I had worked with at Xerox when I was there in the ’70’s !

After visiting the historic railroad museum in Foley, AL the next day and driving down to the beach in Gulf Shores, AL to see the ocean we then packed up and moved on east to Pensacola, FL where we took in the National Naval Museum and what a treat that was.  Not only did we get a free guided tour, but the Blue Angels had just returned to the base and we got to see them in action during their practice flights – super impressive!

After the museum, we drove a little further east and checked in at Eagle’s Landing RV Park at Holt, FL just a little west of Crestview.  That night we met my sister Marilynn and brother-in-law Rick at a nearby Cracker Barrel for dinner.  They live in Jacksonville and were traveling from

Herb, Marilynn, Rick, and Kathy

home to Pensacola for a Florida Dental Association mission work trip and so we were able to hook up along the way.

We stayed another night at Eagle’s Landing and spent most of the day Thursday with Dave and Robyn who live at Crestview, FL.  Dave and I have been friends since about 4th or 5th grade.  He lived a few blocks north of me in Redford Township, MI and once we were old enough to ride our bikes off our block, we met and have been life-long friends since.

Dave and Robyn

Dave and Robyn took us on down to Destin, FL where we boarded an excursion boat and went through the harbor and out to the gulf where we spotted dozens of bottle-nose dolphins.  Then enjoyed each other’s company some more at a great local seafood restaurant.

Here’s a few pictures of the harbor and our search for dolphins.

Friday we left Eagles Landing and drove to Jacksonville, FL where we checked into Fleetwood RV Park, spent a quiet night and then Ed & Sandy drove up from Orlando on Saturday and the four of us spent the day together at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Ed and I met in 1962 when our family moved in across the street from Ed in Redford Township (a suburb of Detroit).  We still talk almost weekly.

By the way, all three of us are ham radio operators.  We all took the same class back in the late 60’s and our original call signs issued by the FCC were WB8BHK, WB8BHL, and WB8BHY.

The Jacksonville Zoo is beautiful .. they have a lot of boardwalks that are suspended above the animal pens so you can really see a lot.   Here’s a video playlist of some of the zoo and then there’s a slideshow of more of the animals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After seeing everyone in FL, we headed up I-95 through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and now we’re in Tennessee at the Escapee’s Raccoon Valley RV Park.

We’ll probably stay here a couple days, work our way up into Kentucky for Thursday nights stay, and then back in Mount Gilead on Friday.

It’s been a long trip (I’ll tell you how many miles when we’re done), but it’s been a great adventure, we’ve met a lot of wonderful people, and we’re excited about what’s to come.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Goodbye Arizona

Goodbye Arizona

This morning we’ll be heading out, leaving all our new-found friends at Rancho Verde RV Park at Camp Verde, AZ.

This park was our first workamping experience and we came here full of excitement but also a little anxiety not really knowing what to expect.

We’ve been blessed.  We were very quickly accepted as part of the “family” here at the park.  The owners and managers have been wonderful to work for and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone here.

Some are full-time residents, while we’ve had a fair amount of those that come and go every few days.  We’ve tried to make a point of meeting as many as we can because in life, it’s the people that make the difference.

So now it’s on to Florida to visit friends and family, then back up to Ohio by the 1st of April where we’ll spend a few weeks with the kids and grandkids, and then up to Michigan in May where we’ll be workamping for the summer near Ludington.

I’ll try to post more as we travel east and north, but it’s often more difficult because of some limited wifi and less time to sit at the keyboard – more driving and sightseeing stops.

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

“You’re Going To Do What??”

I thought it appropriate that I should give you an update on how we are doing since we left Ohio back on Labor Day 2016.

We didn’t really “sneak” out of town, but we didn’t talk a lot about our leaving beforehand either.  Since I was then in a business partnership with Carol, I didn’t want tomorrowhometeamlogosmaller talk a lot around town about my retirement and have it affect the business for Carol immediately before or after I left.  The business had nothing to do with why I retired when I did.
In fact, the business relationship with Carol was wonderful and made the decision all that much harder. But in the end, I/we had to do what we felt was best for us.

I’ve been posting our experiences regularly on this blog as we’ve traveled along.  Some posts have been about things we’ve done and places we’ve been to, while others have detailed some of the technical or mechanical issues we’ve had along the way.

Many have asked our intentions….

After we bought the coach last fall, we decided to take a cross-country trip this past April to visit Kathy’s cousin Judy and her husband Bob who live in Encinitas, California near San Diego.

The purpose of the trip was two-fold.  Not only to visit Judy & Bob, who we hadn’t seen in probably 10 years or so, but also to see how we might like to change our lifestyle … that is, to retire from our “jobsdsc_0037“, selling or giving away most of our possessions, and hit the road to become full-time nomads / rv’ers / workampers.  We also wanted to get a sampling of how it might be for the two of us to live together in such small quarters – about 300 square feet!

While some thought we were crazy for “chucking it all” and hitting the road, many more wished they could join us and wished us well on this new phase in our life journey.

I’ve wanted to travel in an RV and go “camping” for years, but Kathy wanted nothing to do with it, as she felt that living even part-time in a small metal can with two young children would not be her idea of living in paradise, but rather some form of hell on wheels. But that was the past, the “kids” are now adults and have their own lives and dreams.

Our decision to change our lifestyle was not so much predicated on wanting to retire (stop working) but more to be able to enjoy each other with the time we have left in this world.  We have come to realize, as a result of my heart attack back in 2003 and Kathy’s bought with cancer in 2013, that life is short …. and it’s getting shorter every day.

After some careful consideration and crunching the numbers, we realized that a change in our lifestyle was possible, so we decided to pull the plug as of the first of September, 2016.

But we also knew that if we were to just travel from place to place and see the sights, we could very probably go broke in short order between the cost of diesel fuel (@ 10 miles / gallon) and the average cost for an overnight stay in an RV park at about $35-$40/night.  We studied sites online that talked about living on the road and how people do it and we became intrigued by this lifestyle called “Workamping”.

There are literally thousands of workamping or hosting positions out there that typically trade 10-15 hours per week of your work in exchange for your RV site, propane, electric, wifi, laundry and other perks.  Some parks pay a small hourly wage for any hours worked over the minimum required to cover the cost of the site while others pay better wages and then charge for the site.

So you can get a better idea of the sorts of positions out there, check out some of these popular web sites that advertise for workamping and hosting positions.

We wrote our resume and posted it on some of these sites and “bang” right away got our first workamping position here at Rancho Verde RV Park at Camp Verde, AZ.  Camp Verde, as it turns out is a great location, geographically about half way between Flagstaff to the north and Phoenix to the south.  Not too cold in the winter (currently about 60 degrees) and not too hot in the summer.

Kathy and I have had four months now to “soak it in” and we’ve determined that we are very pleased with our new lifestyle.  We are comfortable in our new 36′ home, we have great neighbors in our fellow workampers here and the residents, and the money part is working out too.

We work two days each week in exchange for our site and the other amenities, so we have plenty of time to make day trips to see much of what Arizona has to offer, and come March 15th our commitment here will be finished and we’ll move on down the road.

We’ll pull out and take probably about two weeks to meander back to Ohio to stop and visit family and friends, staying there a couple of weeks and then head on to southeastern Michigan where we’ll camp for another couple of weeks while we visit family and old friends we grew up with (we’re making a list of who to see) and then after that time we will move on up further north and west in Michigan to start our summer workamping job near Ludington.

Kathy and I have a lot of great memories of our time spent in northern Michigan back while we were dating, spending our honeymoon there, and then making many return trips after we had moved to Ohio back to see family and good friends.

I know this post is longer than most I have written, I know as a reader I get bored of the longer posts and often move on before the end, so I try to keep my own posts generally shorter and more to the point.  I hope you’ll forgive me for rambling on.

But it’s rainy here today (New Years Day) and so we’re taking advantage of this time inside.  We did however get out for our morning walk in between rain showers.

We are looking forward to a great 2017 filled with many new places and meeting many new friends.  We wish all of you only the best in the new year and who knows, maybe we’ll be able to meet around a campfire somewhere and enjoy each other’s company.  We’re looking forward to it!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Merry Christmas from Herb & Kathy

Here’s a little video to bring a smile to your face and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and Happy New Year.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Oil Creek Family Campground

We have had a great time at the 56th Escapade, meeting many new friends, learning a lot about RV’ing, and spending a few bucks at the commercial vendors booths in the market area.

2016-07-27 11.11.12
Commercial Vendors at the Market

We left the Expo Center Thursday morning before the closing ceremonies, but waited until the Shade Pro guys came back to install our newly purchased window shades.  These shades work well to keep out the hot sun from the inside of the coach, yet still allow us to see what’s going on outside.  We ordered them late Tuesday night (about 8:30) and they came in Thursday morning and Skylar came about 10:00 am to do the installation.2016-07-28 10.22.56

After heading out, we motored back to Port Byron, NY (not far off the I-90) where we spent another night at Hejamada RV Park.  We had stayed here on our way to the Escapade and found it to be a nice park and in the right location for us, so we spent a 2nd night there.  Kathy took a dip in the pool after we checked in, I made our dinner, Kathy did a load of laundry in the morning before we headed out to our next stop.

So Friday afternoon we arrived at Oil Creek Family Campground at Titusville, PA.  We have been looking forward to camping here because it is owned by Kathy’s cousin Penny and her husband David.  We got in about 3pm or so and a gentle on-and-off rain has been going throughout the night and morning.  We took a walk around the campground Saturday morning with our hats on just to keep the raindrops off our eyeglasses.  The campground is designed with families and children in mind with lots of planned activities, playground equipment, a rec hall with ping-pong and pool tables, and a small but well stocked camp store where Mom & Dad can buy food and the kids can buy that ever important candy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Engineer David treats all the little ones to rides around the park (video).  This is really cool, it even has a train whistle and blows smoke (bubbles) out the stack!

We had a great time, really enjoying our travels seeing new parts of the country, renewing old friendships with family, and making new friends along the way.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
NOTE: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.