Now it’s Her Turn

Now that my hip replacement surgery is over it’s Kathy’s turn next!

It’s been 13 days now since my surgery and each day continues to be better than the previous one. I’m now able to get in and out of the recliner and the bed without Kathy’s loving assistance. Although I can ambulate around the house using only a cane (I used a walker for the first 7 days) and I can take care of my own personal hygiene needs, I still need her help however in getting my socks on and off especially due to the fact that I have to wear these knee-high “TED” compression socks for another 5 weeks!

I started Physical Therapy this past week, just three visits in so far and it’s amazing how much it’s helped to stretch the muscles and relieve the stiffness. Those girls at the local hospital do a great job. This is my third “opportunity” to utilize their professional services and I’m so appreciative that we have the PT gang here at our local hospital.

It’s time now to have Kathy taken care of. Her left hip has really been bothering her the last few months since she had a fall when carrying some packages up the steps into the house. Initially we thought that she was going to need hip replacement surgery as well, but further investigation discovered that she has a torn Gluteus Medius.

Although this will be an arthroscopic surgery, we’re told that her recovery will very likely be more difficult than mine.

If you know anyone who’s had shoulder rotator cuff repair surgery, this is very similar. Since the muscle has two tears, the surgeon will install a couple of “patches” that will attach at each end of the open tear to hold and pull the muscle back together.

Our hip gets a lot of action. Rotator cuff recovery I’m guessing is easier than this will be because with the shoulder, the patient can carry the weight of the arm and hand in a sling nearly all day and night only removing the sling to shower and get dressed.

With the hip we are not so lucky. This muscle will be used and stretched every time she walks, sits, or rises from a sitting position.

I had already planned to take the month of December off work while I recuperate, but I think it’ll be well into January (or February) before I’ll feel comfortable leaving her on her own. It’s a good thing we’ve had nearly 50 years of getting used to each other, eh?

Say a little prayer for us if you will …

Time to Move On

Wow .. it’s been a year. How time flies. After having been on the road as RV Nomads for 4+ years, we finally came back to Ohio last March (2020) because of the Covid 19 virus.

And now a year later, were ready to move on – well, almost.

When we decided to go rv’ing full time in 2016 we sold our home in Ohio to our daughter Sara and son-in-law Stu.

When covid hit us all February of 2020 we were on our way to North Carolina to work in a campground for 3 months. At that point we didn’t know what was going to happen as many of the roadside truck stops and even highway rest areas were closing.

Restaurants were closing and some governors were even talking about closing the state lines. We were concerned that we were less and less safe with every passing day and every passing mile. Would we be able to move on if we felt unsafe in any particular location? We decided to head home to Ohio while we still could and where we knew what to expect.

A safe overnight stay at Orangeburg SC Elks Lodge on our trip northward

We have been blessed in that the kids (Sara and Stu) have an apartment up above the garage so Kathy and I have been able to live there the last year.

The main house to the right, the Bunkhouse above the garage to the left.

I haven’t written much the last year as it’s been pretty uneventful … trips to the grocery store were sometimes the highlight of the week!

I eventually took a part-time job working for the county transportation agency. This kept me busy about 30 hours a week while Kathy had taken on the responsibility of dog-sitting Stu & Sara’s 3 dogs, helping out with their laundry and keeping us all fed each evening.

My bus

Occasionally we’ve been meeting our small “group of eight” dear friends that we’ve known for years. We are “Brothers (and sisters) from another mother). We’d meet at one of our homes for a wonderful home cooked meal or, once we’ve felt more adventurous, met at a restaurant (mid-day when it’s less crowded)

We actually all went camping together last fall where we could enjoy our extended family while still being safe.

I got my Covid test last week in preparation for my shoulder surgery Tuesday. Ohio Health has an easy drive-up testing site.

The Ohio Health drive-up Covid testing site before my surgery

Now that I’m well on my way to a complete recovery, we decided to pull the coach out of storage, test all the systems to make sure all is well, and head on out to our camp hosting job in Kentucky.

We will be Camp Hosts at Dale Hollow Lake Resort State Park starting mid-April and running through the July 4th holiday.

After that, we’ll come back up to Ohio for a week or so to visit our doctors and get new prescriptions for the next year along with picking up anything we might have forgot to load into the motorhome this week.

Mid-July will find us heading up to Michigan where we will visit friends and relatives for a few days before moving on up into the Upper Peninsula then on into Wisconsin and continuing to the west coast and on down into Arizona for the winter.

Our planned trek back to Casa Grande AZ by Nov 1st

Thanks for following along and I’ll start posting more often now that we’re satisfying our “hitch-itch” and moving along.

Until next time, only our best wishes to you and yours for a warm and wonderful summer.

Herb & Kathy

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 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!