View Full Version : Did you have Medical Insurance/Coverage when you hiked?

Trail Dog
11-13-2002, 23:22
I am planning to do the AT in two streches, Georgia to New York then Maine to New York. Now i need to skip a semester of college when i do the South to north part and i will have graduated when i do the North South section. I will not have coverage since i wont be enroled in school when i head north and i will be out of school and unemployed when i go North to south.

So medical insurance will be an issue. I am hoping to get two things out of this post. 1- How many long range hikers had the medical insurance problems and how they solved them. and 2 how many accually hiked without any coverage?

well i hope this is the place to go.


11-14-2002, 08:58
You can buy short term "travel" insurance policies for reasonable rates. I got a 50 day policy for a trip to Nepal last winter, which cost around $60. I don't remember the provider. However, you have to read the fine print. Many of the policies do not cover injuries from what they term "hazardous activities". Trekking is frequently listed as such an activity. If you look around, you should be able to find one that will cover you. However, the coverage is usually pretty thin. I got it mainly so that if I took a bad fall or got gored by a yak or whatever, I could be flown out of the hills and then to a country which had more modern health care facilities. This, though, is less of an issue on the AT.

When I hiked this past May, Springer to Damascus, I had really crappy student health insurance. It meant that if I wanted to be fixed up and not pay for it, I had to get on a bus and go home to the student doctors. But, I didn't get hurt, so it wasn't an issue.

Hammock Hanger
11-14-2002, 10:50
My husband was working and had family insurance. Thank God because my stay in the NH hospital was just under $10,000. Luckily all I had to pay was @ $500.00

When we were road gypsies we use to get seasonal or temp insurance.

Hammock Hanger

11-14-2002, 11:12
i think insurance should be a big concern with hikers, especially thru-hikers. in 2000 i was covered by my retirement plan and my partner was covered by his wife's insurance. unfortunately, a lot of trail related injuries don't exceed typical deductibles or co-payments. my partner had 2 experiences with doctor visits and x-rays, neither of which exceeded his deductible. of course he had to shell out! one thing i will say, the doctors he saw were incredible. one even offered the loan of a car to get around in.

Trail Dog
11-14-2002, 11:50
so i should look into temporary travel insurance?

i know the AT isnt exaclty like hiking in the Cashmere Mountians or visiting Beautiful Downtown Grozny but it does have its dangers. With my rusty ankles i might take a nasty fall on some damn ridge line.

If anyone knows where i should start to look please let me know.


11-14-2002, 15:16
A lot of people see medical insurance as something you pay a fee for and then it should cover almost all your bills. This isn't the point of insurance (insurance being the key word). It's just to mitigate the cost if you end up with something major happening. Anyway, thats more of a financial lesson...
My wife and I both got major medical from, uh, what was the name of that insurer...Golden something... Golden Rule! That's it... $250 for 6 months or so... 1k deductible... My wife went to the doc a few times, but never meet the deductible. But it does cover your butt in case of anything major.
Just make sure your insurer will cover you in different states...


Gravity man

11-14-2002, 15:44
I was just surfing around on my lunch break when I found trailplace was back online (it was off for a while...) Anyway, it answers this specific question. Check it out...


Trail Dog
11-14-2002, 16:04
sweet! i am running a quote now....

i also plan to talk to a 'friend' who sells insurance. can you ever really call an insurance saleman a friend?


crap i tried to run the quote but as expected no one wants to insure a New Yorker. NY state is not listed, only about 35 states are. Thanks anyway.

03-09-2003, 10:34
Log on to trailforums.com; this subject was addressed there. I'm not sure under which forum title it is, very possibly under "General" or "Appalachian Trail". This is an open forum website. I remember quite a few suggestions concerning this issue were given.

03-09-2003, 11:23
Woops--I messed up! The insurance issue is discussed in THIS forum website under "General', then under the thread concerning "How do you do it.." Some of the entries under there address the insurance issue.

03-09-2003, 11:27
Clarification on the above post--it's under "General", then under the thread started by Stickat04 entitled "What do you do.."
Thanks for your patience with my middle-aged short-term memory!! (Or long-term, whatever)

08-09-2003, 11:48
www.trailpace.com is a defunct url as of 8/8/03

08-09-2003, 11:50
Well, my brother's an MD here in Jersey, so maybe I can get "professional courtesy" if I need it.
Won't bank on that though. I'll be looking into some sort of insurance.

08-09-2003, 13:03
fwasser - I've never heard of www.trailpace.com but www.trailplace.com appears to still be a going concern - not that I would ever go there but for those that can put up with Wingfoot I suppose it is a resource of some value

08-09-2003, 13:53
Fwasser(hope I got that right): If you quit your job, you can keep your health insurance through the company's group plan for 18 months. I'm doing that now myself. You will have to pay the full premium, but as I learned this year(another story)it's worth it!!

08-09-2003, 14:30
I've heard about Cobra. I thought it was very expensive though, about $400 per month?

08-09-2003, 14:43
There is another discussion under General on Insurance. I recently posted the following there:

I recenty purchased a short term plan through FORTIS. My local insurance agent hooked me up. THe plan was for my son who was no longer eligible for my health plan. I believe it cost 260 bucks for 6 months coverage with 1,000 deductible. You can choose the size of your deductible but the premiums begin to mount up. My son was in good health and I was insuring against a bad accident as he is an avid rock climber. I did file a claim with Fortis and they have been very responsive. Fortis insurance is renewable once for total coverage of one year. It is designed to be transitional coverage. You can find them on the web and design your own coverage..... I am not aware if they cover prescription drugs or not.... I agree with the posters above that it would be a very risky proposition to hike without any coverage. THe chances of injury or sickness seems pretty high....Good luck.

08-09-2003, 14:46
COBRA premiums can be very expensive. My company quoted me a COBRA rate of $310 per month for a single, healthy adult male. Comparable coverage (same deductible, same PPO, same maximum out of pocket) runs $160 through Blue Cross Blue Shield.

It's tough to justify COBRA unless it is really a very temporary coverage situation between jobs.

But, if you can't get coverage outside of COBRA (maybe due to a preexiting condition), COBRA is certainly better than no coverage at all!

08-09-2003, 14:50
Yes, I agree that doing a thru-hike without insurance would be a very risky venture. If there is any time when I might need it, this would be it.
Compared to having to pay all costs myself, even Cobra at $400 per month would be a bargain.
Only problem I can see with Cobra is that since I would be continuing coverage with my present plan, which is a PPO, or HMO, I may have trouble finding a doctor who accepts that plan.
I'll have to check the listings of member physicians and hospitals before I make a choice.
I'll certainly look into the alternatives, and choose the one that best fits my needs.

09-04-2003, 11:17
I apologize for not knowing the details, but there is also emergency medical insurance available to anyone for a maximum of 6 months out of any calendar year. My old roomate used it when she was out of work- and I think it only ran like $30 a month. You could probably find it by searching "emergency insurance" on-line.

Spirit Walker
09-04-2003, 20:33
Partly insurance costs depend on your age. If you are a student, it's quite cheap. Insurance for travel overseas isn't too bad either. There are several companies that offer that. But insurance for someone over 40 in this country, even temporary insurance, can be quite expensive. I've been lucky. Probably half my life I've done without insurance, including all four long hikes. I went 11 years withut seeing a doctor, because I had no insurance. And so far, I've been okay. I only had medical bills on one of my hikes, and that cost was less than the insurance would have cost, and probably wouldn't have been covered anyhow since it would have been within the deductible amount. But if anything really bad had happened . . . I'd have been in deep trouble.

11-13-2003, 11:13
Cobra coverage is expensive. You basically accept the full cost of insuring yourself from your former employer. In most cases a percentage of your medical coverage is deducated from your pay and the company pays the rest. Some companies pay 100% others a lesser percentage. 400 dollars a month buys insurance with very high deductibles $5k per family member or 15k per family per year is what my sister and her husband get for that money. Full coverage on an HMO type plan runs around $1000 a month depending upon how many people are covered, etc.

Were I doing it again, and were I in a position that I would lose my coverage (wife no longer working etc.) I would spring for catastrophic health care coverage. Typically the deductibles are very high 5K range so a major illness or injury requiring hospitalization would probably be a trip ender, even if I recovered well enough and fast enough to continue the trip. Minor illnesses would be paid out of pocket.

I was covered under catastrophic health insurance during my hike. It wasn't too pricey, but the only things it would have covered were serious injury or life threatening illness.

Be aware, many insurance companies were making their money on the stock market rather than their actual business during the boom years of the dot bomb bubble. The cashflow from their investments allowed them to extend insurance coverage to some high risk customers, and they ended up paying a lot out on those policies. Because they had so much cash available from their investments, it wasn't a problem though, and the large number of policies written looked good to customers.

When the bubble burst and their investments turned sour, not only were the companies losing money on the policies they had written, but they were also hemorhaging money from their investment accounts. To stop the bleeding, they had to tighten up their rules for issuing policies and impose new restrictions. They also closed a lot of old programs and cancelled risky policies.

The impact of all of this on hikers is simple: the cheaper policies that were available in the middle 90's are no longer available. Getting insurance is harder, more expensive and payouts are harder to come by.

11-13-2003, 16:52
No hospital is going to turn you away...

When I left UMass Amherst I lost my health insurance. I left for a good paying job, but I had a 3-month waiting period before my insurance at work kicked in. Of course I was poor coming out of college, and as things usually work, I got an ear infection. It is illegal for an emergency room to turn a patient away, so I went there. All they did was take down my information, and then I got treated like anyone else. You do have to pay for your own medication still, but even with health insurance your usually not covered for meds. I did receive a bill, which I ended up paying, but even then you don't "HAVE" to. It's not like your going to be thrown in jail for not paying for a cast on your foot.

If you have no personal wealth or belongings to be seized, I say don't worry about health insurance. If your of the type who has a home, boat, 2 new vehicles and a condo, then I'd say you better look into temporary plans :p

11-17-2003, 12:30
Raging Hamster

You DO have to pay for E-room treatment, or any hospital treatment. It's a moral and ethical imperative. Not doing so makes you a thief.

hospitals are very willing to work with a patient to recover fees owed. They'll stretch it out for decades if that's what it takes. My wife has a friend who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer when she was in college. She fought it hard and survived. The surgery, chemo and other treatments cost a fortune and she did not have adequate insurance coverage, so she is still paying for it 15 years later.

One of the reasons health care is so costly in the US, besides the extraordinarily high standards of care, is because so many people use emergency rooms as primary care physicians and then do not pay. The costs of that "free" treatment must then be amortized over the entire paying population. So the insured pay extra to cover the costs of the uninsured, and the insurance companies respond by upping their rates.

Many hospitals are drowning in the red ink this "free care" creates for them. They cannot turn patients away (nor should they) but they also cannot completely recover the costs in many cases.

If you need medical care, by all means, get to a doctor or a hospital and get it, then work out a way to pay for it, but you do need to pay for it, otherwise you will force everyone else to pay for it, and that isn't fair or honorable.

11-17-2003, 13:07
No hospital is going to turn you away...
If you have no personal wealth or belongings to be seized, I say don't worry about health insurance. If your of the type who has a home, boat, 2 new vehicles and a condo, then I'd say you better look into temporary plans :p

I think there is also one other consideration. If you wish to improve your chances of receiving adequate care, then secure some medical insurance.

In my situation, since I have Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage, I can choose quality doctors that participate in my PPO---almost all of the doctors in my area participate. Without insurance, I end up at the Cook County hospital and get whatever care they feel like giving me. In other words, right or wrong, I end up at the bottom of the totem pole subject to the mercy of the personnel that the county hospital if I don't have adequate insurance. With insurance, if I don't like my doctor, I can simply try another one that I think might be better.

So, there's more to it than just worrying about losing my condo. I'm more concerned about saving my health if that becomes necessary. All of the material things in the world can't offset health problems. If you were to lose your sight, would you give up everything you have to save your sight? Of course, I would give up everything I own in a heartbeat.

11-17-2003, 15:40
Try Fortis. We used them on our thru-hike in '00 they were great. I had to go to the ER in NY. Had no problems with fortis. It is a six month non renwable policy. but it was pretty cheap. We also carried a 1k deductable. This was a plan that USAA (insurance for military) told us about. They send all the transitioning soilders to fortis for short term insurance.

Black Toe
11-17-2003, 17:32
I recently signed with fortis. Good rates and easy sign up. You might check into it.

Brushy Sage
01-20-2004, 19:32
I went to medical clinics twice in my 600 mi hike. One clinic accepted my insurance; the other, in Bland, VA, did not, because, they said, they had been left holding the bag by too many hikers whose insurance wouldn't pay. So they required payment in advance. Fortunately for me, they did accept my credit card.

01-21-2004, 00:58
For six months of coverage for health insurance with a $1000 deductable $360 is a bargain!

01-21-2004, 01:38
For six months of coverage for health insurance with a $1000 deductable $360 is a bargain!

Yes. I currently pay $150 per month for that coverage---or $900 for six months---with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

01-29-2004, 10:30
i have insurance thru my employer...but if you've QUIT your job or are BETWEEN jobs...you can get "short term" travel insurance @ many insurance companies. shop around for the best deal!


isnt Medicare a national healthcare program????????????????...

if so, i would think it would cover you no matter where you are.

see ya'll UP the trail!

01-29-2004, 10:47
Medicare insurance is for someone age 65 or on SS disability...you must mean you are in a PPO.

Just do a Google search for Golden Rule or Fortis insurance companies. They both offer a temporary 6 month plan that covers you anywhere.

04-08-2005, 23:02
There's a great book out there by a Dr. Peter Bezruka (sp?) called "The Pocket Doctor" I discovered this book about 12 years ago for a trip to Nepal. Since then it has helped me so many times. I think you'll find that most of your problems that you will have from hiking, are addressed in the book which assumes you won't have much access to hospitals or doctors. There are a few drugs he recommends to carry which will solve diarrhea, (sp?) aches and pains, toothaches, etch. I haven't had medical insurance since discovering this book as it's cured me at home also many times. check it out! fh

01-31-2006, 19:31
I am glad I had insurance when I hiked last year, because I got a wicked case of Lyme Disease and was in and out of hospitals through four states (of course, if I hadn't continued to hike, I probably wouldn't have had to keep going back to the hospital, but thru-hikers are stubborn about being told to get off the trail!).

01-31-2006, 20:01
I recently signed with fortis. Good rates and easy sign up. You might check into it.

My wife and I took out a short term ins policy with Fortis for our 05 thru-hike. Thank goodness, we didn't have to use it, but it was relatively cheap with the plan we went with - $695/couple. The policy was mostly for a piece of mind...and that was priceless for us. But to each their own.