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.

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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

Part 2 – N’West Michigan Road Trip – Mushrooms, Tunnels, Bears, and Indians – Oh My!

Part 2 – N’West Michigan Road Trip – Mushrooms, Tunnels, Bears, and Indians – Oh My!

We left Charlevoix the next morning after a comfortable stay at the Maple Leaf Inn and continued north on M-31 toward Petoskey.  We had an opportunity to go along Lake Charlevoix on our way to Urgent Care (that’s another story altogether) when we happened along some of the famous “Mushroom Houses” we had heard about.  You can read more about these famous homes and the self-taught architect that designed and built these beautiful homes by clicking here.

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Heading out of Charlevoix on M-31 along the south edge of Little Traverse Bay, we arrived in Petoskey (famous for Petoskey Stones) and we happened across their Farmer’s Market.  Since we don’t have a lot of room for storage, nor do we have a large refrigerator, the only thing Kathy bought was a bar of hand made soap. Here’s a few pictures from the market, everything was so colorful and attractive!

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Moving on up the road out of Petoskey, some friends of ours here at the park told us about State Route 119 and the “Tunnel of Trees“.  It sounded fascinating and we wanted to stay along the lake shore, so off we went due north on SR 119.  Video below.

The Tunnel of Trees starts at about Harbor Springs and ends at a small hamlet called Cross Village where we found the famous (and out of the way) “Legs Inn” restaurant.  Unfortunately for us, the restaurant doesn’t open until noon and we got there just a little too early, but we did take the opportunity to walk the grounds and check out some of the history of the place.  There are beautiful gardens out back with patio seating and the original designer, Stanley Smolak had an eclectic flair and utilized the local Odawa Indians to help him build the Legs Inn.  See more about the Legs Inn at this link.

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Beyond Cross Village (on M-119) we worked our way east and north on up to The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, McGulpin Point Lighthouse, stopped for ice cream in Mackinaw City and then on over the bridge.  Although the day was clear and sunny in the city, the fog was heavy at the bridge and visibility was poor if not non-existent.

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We ended up the day heading on down I-75, then over to Kalkaska where my folks had lived in their retirement years and are buried at the Garfield Twp Cemetery.  Kathy and I drove around the area reminiscing how we used to come up here to see them when the kids were toddlers (they’re now 39 & 40).

All in all it was a great trip.  Seeing new sites along with revisiting some places we used to frequent and bringing back pleasant memories.  A great way to spend a few days in northern Michigan.

 

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

Workampers Northwest Michigan Road Trip

One of the nice advantages of the workamping lifestyle is that we work (at the RV park) part time in exchange for our site and utilities.  “Part Time” is key for two reasons.  First, we’ve worked full-time for forty years or so and don’t want to do that any longer … after all, we are “retired” in that we quit working full time, started collecting our Social Security and pensions earlier than most (at a reduced rate) so that we could change our lifestyle and explore this great country of ours.

Secondly, working part time allows us a few days a week to hit the road and explore what’s around us.  If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve seen; the beach and state park at Ludington, the Pere Marquette River, the Village of Idlewild, Bitely, and more.

This week we headed out Thursday morning for a three day trip along the “baby finger” of Michigan bordering Lake Michigan where we enjoyed towns and villages like Manistee, Glen Arbor, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Cross Village, Mackinac City and finally back down through Kalkaska and Cadillac.  The map of our three day trip is below.

If you’d like an interactive link to the map so you can zoom and pan on any specific area, here’s the link.

Day 1 – Manistee to Charlevoix

Our first stop was at Manistee.  We didn’t walk the town, but we did head to the beach and on the way back through town, we stopped to admire the Ramsdell Theatre.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside to see, but got a couple of outside pix.  I wouldn’t have stopped there, but was curious about the large brick windowless tower poking up out the back of the building.  Once we stopped and found that it was a theater, the tower to the rear made sense.

Pigs really DO Fly (at the Ramsdell Theatre sidewalk in front of the box office)
Coming attractions at the Ramsdell Theatre
Ramsdell Theater, Manistee, MI – On the National Register of Historic Places
The Ramsdell streetside .. Note the high tower at the rear where they pull up the curtains and backdrops
The public beach along Lake Michigan at Manistee, MI
Our selfie at Manistee Public Beach Park
This is a decommissioned rail car ferry. It’s hard to see, but it has train tracks inside for the cars to ride on
The stern of the ferry opens wide to allow the train cars to be rolled on to the deck
Relaxing along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Orchard Beach State Park just north of Manistee
Historical marker at Onekema on the east side of Portage Lake
The park at Onekema overlooking Portage Lake

We continued north along M-22, often catching glimpses of the mighty Lake Michigan

Selfie at Inspiration Point (Arcadia Dunes Beach at Arcadia)
The Kindness Rocks Project at Arcadia Beach

It was a beautiful drive up M-22 along the lake.  Since it was a weekday, very little traffic and almost nobody else on the beaches we stopped to check out.

We continued up M-22 out of Arcadia, through Watervale and Alberta and on into Frankfort where we were able to pull in to the public park at the marina, break out our cooler and have a light lunch of tuna salad on crackers along with some cottage cheese and washed it all down with a few gulps of ice cold lemonade while watching the boats bobbing in the water and the sea gulls dive for their lunch (in the harbor, not at our picnic table!).

Leaving Frankfort, we headed on up through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore across Glen Lake into and out of Glen Arbor and into Leland where we knew from previous visits we would find the historic “Fishtown“.  It’s mostly just a tourist trap now with lots of shops filled with collectibles and souvenirs, along with a few cafes but also is an active harbor for pleasure vessels and charter fishing operations as well.  You can easily spend a lot of money in Leland.

Years ago we had continued north on M-22 all the way to the Grand Traverse Light adjacent to the Lelanau State Park at the tip of the baby finger.  It’s a nice trip up with a wonderful little museum in the lighthouse and I’d recommend this to anyone visiting the area.

Now, I KNEW that Leland was a tourist spot, but we thought maybe we’d get a room there for the night and be able to walk the sidewalks and rub elbows with those further up the economic ladder from us.  NOT!  We found a motel online and our smartphone said that they had only one room left, so we darted up the street to get there and check in.  The nice young lady behind the desk told us the rate was $391 (per night!) and NO, that did NOT include a few rounds of golf!

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Soooooo, we headed out of Leland, through Sutton’s Bay and on to Charlevoix where we hoped to find a room for the night.

We found the Maple Leaf Motel (only 10 rooms) on the south end of town where our host Cindy welcomed us to the last room available, and as promised we found the room to be clean.  I asked Cindy where we should have dinner tonight and she recommended the new “Cantina” restaurant located in an alley off the beaten track.  She also told us about the 80th annual Venetian Festival going on in downtown this week.  We decided that all sounded like a great night so off we went …

The harbor at Charlevoix, getting ready for the band at the Venetian Festival
The Venetian Festival at Charlevoix
Dinner menu from the Cantina restaurant where we had dinner
Cantina “Street Corn” grilled, rolled in Chipotle Mayo, then rolled in cheese – Yummy!
Kathy’s Chicken and Shrimp Tacos
My beef and bean burrito
Mural on Rexall Drugs downtown Charlevoix
A man and his dog on the paddle board in the harbor
A 2 hour cruise out into Lake Michigan on a catamaran

Some shots of folks enjoying the festival food at the harbor and listening to the live band in the amphitheater

This ferry coming in from Beaver Island (watch the video below)

 

Kathy wanted to go on the Ferris Wheel.  But she also wanted ME to GO ALONG!

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’m “skeered of heights”.  I can’t even climb up on top of the motor home.  I can handle a six foot ladder, but that’s about all.

It might not look it, but I’m shakin’ in my shoes
A shot from atop the wheel (Skeered)
A street performer downtown Charlevoix during the Venetian Festival

The video below shows a group of kids having a ball on the hill.  It would be a really tough climb with a sled in the snow.

We got the last room in town, $85 / nite. Not a lot of fluff, but a clean room
Resting back in the room after dinner and the festival downtown

That’s it for now, the next post will be from Charlevoix through Petoskey, Cross Village and the Tunnel of Trees and then up across the bridge (and back) and then down to Kalkaska.

 

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

Idlewild & The End of Segregation

Idlewild & The End of Segregation

We’re working at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park just south of Baldwin, MI.  Just a few short miles east of Baldwin is the little Village of Idlewild.

From 1912 through the mid-60’s Idlewild was known as “The Black Eden” where scores of famous black entertainers from around the mid-west (and further) would come to entertain their fellow African-Americans in a classy resort community.  This became a very popular spot for the well-to-do where they could unwind and enjoy their idle time.  Folklore says the name may have originated from “Idle men and wild women”.

The Idlewild development was started in 1912 by four white land developers (2 from this area and 2 from Chicago) who marketed excursion trips from the African-American neighborhoods of Detroit, Chicago and other mid-west cities to this area.  They sold home sites to visitors looking for the peace and serenity that they didn’t have in the big city.

In it’s heyday, Idlewild’s summer population would grow to over 25,000 as folks came from far and wide to enjoy camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, roller skating, and night-time entertainment.

Over the years, the area grew by leaps and bounds because of all the top-end entertainment that was featured at the Dance House and other watering holes that had opened.  This was a resort where black folks could come to where they felt welcome.

However, the end of an era came when the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 and thereafter the folks who had traveled to Idlewild, could now enjoy leisure entertainment wherever they wished, often closer to home, due to the end of segregation.

Now Idlewild is a sleepy little village that still offers a lake, a post office, a bar/tavern but little else.  Many of the old cottages built in the 30’s and 40’s are now in disrepair although many folks still live here and thankfully there is an effort underway to revive Idlewild to attract new residents.

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I was only a boy of 10 when the Civil Rights Act was passed.  Growing up in Detroit, I really hadn’t a clue about segregation, integration had already begun.  Although I believe in equal rights for every human being, still, it’s a shame to see that the end of segregation, so good and right for everyone, put an end to what was once a thriving economy for those that had the opportunity to travel here.

I hope that their efforts to revitalize the area are successful.  To see a short video about the history of Idlewild and the efforts to bring it back to life, see the Detroit Free Press story (written in 2014) by following this link.

To learn more about Idlewild, follow this link to the Wikipedia page

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

Fisherman’s Paradise at Pere Marquette

Since we’ve been here just a few days in the “up north” area of Michigan, we’ve been able to do a little exploring.  We arrived at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Park on Sunday the 7th of May and our official work start date is not until the 15th.

Right after we arrived Sunday night, we noticed a leak in the kitchen sink area.  First thing Monday, a trip to the local ACE Hardware in Baldwin.  WOW!  What a store.

Baldwin ACE Hardware

Large store with ample supply of what seemed to be anything anyone might need or want without the need to drive to Big Rapids or Ludington for one of the big box stores.

Just a small length of plastic pipe strap fixed the problem in a jiffy. The slip joint on the “p” trap had come loose from the jiggling as we travel down the road.

While we were in town we decided to check out some of the Pere Marquette River boat launch sites AND OF COURSE one of the local restaurants for a late morning breakfast.

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After breakfast we walked across the street to see the famous JONES Ice Cream Shop.  They have been making their private recipe ice cream in the back room for 75 years.  The parlor’s walls are lined with hundreds of black and white photos showing Lake County history from the mid 1800’s forward.  Take a look at the photos below and see the old time ice cream parlor chairs and stools at the counter.

After breakfast we decided we wanted to look around town a bit check out the river that this area is so famous for.  I’ve put together a video (below) showing some of the different walk-in sites and boat launch sites to the river and some of the lakes in the nearby area.

So far, we are impressed by the beauty of the water and the quiet that abounds.  It’s so peaceful and calming.  Our next post will be a little about the park we’re living at for the summer.  Stay tuned for more.

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

An Amazing Trip to Fort Morgan

An Amazing Trip to Fort Morgan

Staying at Summerdale, AL at the Escapee’s Rainbow Plantation RV Park.  This is a large park with lots of permanent residents that own their lots and have permanent homes on those lots.  There are also about 100 or so shaded RV lots for folks that might want to rent for a day, week, or longer.

They have a big clubhouse (we’re going for lasagna dinner tomorrow night) and a great looking pool, but they say it’s not quite up to temperature just yet.

Our site is nice and well shaded by a large Water Oak tree and the neighbors we’ve met are great.

Our site at Rainbow Plantation – Summerdale, AL

Today (Tuesday) we took a drive down to the beach, (we’ll go back tomorrow with chairs and towels) and then we drove on west to visit Fort Morgan.

Construction of the fort was started in 1819, took 15 years to complete, and is located on Mobile Point so as to be able to protect the shoreline from the north during the Civil War.

It’s interesting to note that the US government leased slaves from local slave owners to manufacture the over 30,000,000 (yes, thirty MILLION) bricks to build the fort.  I’m not going to go in to all the details of the construction and design, but I found it really fascinating to read all the placards located along the self-guided tour.

If you’d like to learn more, follow this link to the official site.

Here’s a few pictures I took with my Samsung S7 Smartphone.  I’m still amazed at the clarity and the resolution of these pix from a PHONE!

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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

Just a Few Miles Down The Road

Just a Few Miles Down The Road

Kathy and I heard about a nice drive we could take down into a canyon to Clear Creek, just a few miles down SR 260.  It started out as a dirt road off the state route, then became a dirt trail, then became a “rock” trail and finally down around through a lot of tight switchbacks to the “Bullpen” Day Use Area.  The creek is flowing fiercely since the snow melt is rushing through every crack and crevice it can find.  You can hear the rushing water in the video below.

The ground is soaking up the liquid sunshine and still plenty of water rushing by to the rivers and irrigation ditches.

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We are continually fascinated by all the beauty there is to see here in Arizona and although we’re excited about our next trip (east to Florida, Ohio, Michigan) we’ll certainly miss the beauty around us here and especially the friends we’ve made.

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
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