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  1. #1
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    Default Health insurance for the trail?

    My husband and I are quitting our jobs to hike the PCT this year, which means we'll both lose our health insurance coverage. Has anyone purchased health insurance for this trip? Any recommendations? We're relatively young and healthy, though both a little accident prone.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Cobra?....

  3. #3
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    Thanks - though we're hoping to find something cheaper than Cobra.

  4. #4
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Good luck with that.

  5. #5
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    Cheaper than COBRA?

    Perhaps things have changed - it's been a long time since I looked into it - but COBRA continues coverage at your group insurance rate, plus 2% for admin costs. Individual health insurance less than a group rate would not be easily found, unless your group rates happened to be high (say due to most of your coworkers being fairly old).

    I'm not sure what individual insurance underwriting can be done anymore since ACA became law (or which demographic characteristics can still be used for rating) but generally you'd want to prove your good health to the greatest extent possible to get a good rate. Best advice as always is shop around. Consider too looking for insurance through "sponsored" products too - sort of a policy for affinity groups. E.g. USAA, an alumni association, trade union, etc.

    But group insurance is usually hard to beat esp. when you take into consideration distribution and underwriting costs with individual insurance. Good luck, hope you find something good. Report back if you do!

  6. #6
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    I did COBRA for a short time once. The premium seemed high at the time. And it was high. For the first time I found out how much my employer had been paying on our behalf.
    This sounds like something that you should have sorted out before deciding to quit your jobs.
    Wayne

  7. #7
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    You could try for a short term plan, which would be cheaper, but they generally don't cover anywhere near what most traditional health insurance plans cover and there are horror stories (like this one https://webcache.googleusercontent.c...&ct=clnk&gl=us ) regarding claims. Cobra would likely be your best bet if you want similar coverage to what you already have continued. Typical cheap short term plans are $150 to $200/mo for 2 people in their early 30's - but the deductibles are usually in the 10K range. The insurance doesn't kick in until you spend that up front. Then you typically still pay coinsurance of 20 to 30% and most plans have a plan limits anywhere from $100K to 500K. Generally those limits go down as the deductible goes down. It's all about the money (profit). Remember, the insurance companies have this stuff down to a science. Issuing short term policies is a high risk (small number of small payments with large potential liability). You will likely fight tooth and nail to get claims approved. Should anything happen (even one trip to an ER), COBRA would have been a bargain.

  8. #8

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    COBRA isn't all that expensive as opposed to purchasing a healthcare policy on an individual basis where costs can be $1,500 - $1,700 a month for two people.

    Probably best to consult with an insurance specialist for a policy. For what its worth, COBRA would probably be the least expensive and best coverage option.

  9. #9
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Google healthcare.gov.

  10. #10

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    Check your Obamacare state exchange. I found that because I had no income (while hiking), they pressured me to simply accept the free plan. Go figure.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    You could try for a short term plan, which would be cheaper, but they generally don't cover anywhere near what most traditional health insurance plans cover and there are horror stories (like this one https://webcache.googleusercontent.c...&ct=clnk&gl=us ) regarding claims. Cobra would likely be your best bet if you want similar coverage to what you already have continued. Typical cheap short term plans are $150 to $200/mo for 2 people in their early 30's - but the deductibles are usually in the 10K range. The insurance doesn't kick in until you spend that up front. Then you typically still pay coinsurance of 20 to 30% and most plans have a plan limits anywhere from $100K to 500K. Generally those limits go down as the deductible goes down. It's all about the money (profit). Remember, the insurance companies have this stuff down to a science. Issuing short term policies is a high risk (small number of small payments with large potential liability). You will likely fight tooth and nail to get claims approved. Should anything happen (even one trip to an ER), COBRA would have been a bargain.
    All good points. You have to be very careful with insurance - networks, coverage, deductibles.

    You get what you pay for. COBRA is expensive up front, but usually the best available coverage.
    The older I get, the faster I hiked.

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    Depending on your income level you may qualify for subsidies for healthcare.gov type coverage. For many lower income folks the subsidy covers a bronze plan at no cost.

    There are short term insurance plans available in most markets. It cover accidents and short term illnesses. They exclude pre-existing conditions and their definitions are pretty broad on what they consider a preexisting condition. The tough part is if you do come down with long term illness they cover you to the end of the policy date and then will not reinsure you for that illness. You then have to go to healthcare.gov and hope Trump hasn't gotten rid of insurance for preexisting conditions.

    Make sure that you have coverage that works out of network as if you do need services its most likely out of network. A managed health option may not be good unless they cover the pacific coast.

    In my case Cobra is the best deal by far.

  13. #13
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    This was a huge pain to figure out before my AT thru. In short - because my employer was contributing roughly half of my group rate - going with COBRA meant an effective doubling of the rates I was used to paying for the same coverage. But as a few people have mentioned, the Obamacare exchanges base their rates on your income at the time you apply for coverage. So if you are jobless, your income is $0 for the foreseeable future. For PA, they do estimate your yearly income based on what you've already earned that year, but in my case they did not look at my previous years income at all. So because I started hiking in March, they estimated my yearly income to be simply what I earned in January and February of that year. So I wound up getting free healthcare through the PA exchange. I'm sure this varies state by state. But you should certainly call and ask.

    I then paid for a cheap travel insurance plan through world nomad. If you go the obamacare route, I'd definitely recommend this, because pretty much all coverage outside of your home state will be out of network and thus thru-the-roof expensive. I also have a specific medical condition and was worried about catastrophic hospitalization fees. I paid roughly a few hundred bucks for 6 months of coverage. Which ended up being very useful when I contracted giardia, and needed to get tested and treated.
    Last edited by Nathan428; 02-21-2019 at 16:29.

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    Oh, also another big reason why I took the above route - the plan you get through the public exchanges almost doesn't matter. You just need some form of primary insurance, and then you can rely on the travel plan (because anything that happens while on the PCT will not be covered by your Illinois insurance because it's out of network, so you can submit all of those costs to the travel plan - after a pro forma denial from your primary insurance. I believe the fine details of my travel plan were that I had to be more than 500 miles from my designated hometown to count as traveling, and for the travel plan to kick in. Definitely read whatever the current terms are.). So the goal is to get the cheapest plan possible, which in my case was free. But please ask a healthcare expert and don't rely solely on my experience.

  15. #15
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    As a veteran I plan to get veterans advantage the year I thru hike.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    COBRA isn't all that expensive as opposed to purchasing a healthcare policy on an individual basis where costs can be $1,500 - $1,700 a month for two people.

    Probably best to consult with an insurance specialist for a policy. For what its worth, COBRA would probably be the least expensive and best coverage option.
    Depends on your health care

    My employer contributes $1400/mo, i pay $200, and still pay first $3000 out of pocket family deductible before .Insurance pays a nickel. So yeah, $1600/mo + moderate deductible is not unusual, at all for good insurance. Pretty much standard . COBRA isnt going to be cheap unless you had crappy insurance that didnt cover anything to start with.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 02-21-2019 at 23:30.

  17. #17
    Registered User Turtle-2013's Avatar
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    Losing employer paid insurance should be a "qualifying event" so that you can get it outside the normal enrollment period.

    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    Google healthcare.gov.

  18. #18
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan428 View Post
    I paid roughly a few hundred bucks for 6 months of coverage. Which ended up being very useful when I contracted giardia, and needed to get tested and treated.
    Can you walk me through which of your two plans paid for the Giardia tests and treatment?

    Did the medical provider bill your Obama Care insurance policy?

    Did the medical provider bill your travel insurance policy?

    Which policy needed up footing the bill?

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Depends on your health care

    My employer contributes $1400/mo, i pay $200, and still pay first $3000 out of pocket family deductible before .Insurance pays a nickel. So yeah, $1600/mo + moderate deductible is not unusual, at all for good insurance. Pretty much standard . COBRA isnt going to be cheap unless you had crappy insurance that didnt cover anything to start with.
    Agreed, COBRA won't be cheap, but likely to be less expensive than purchasing individual policies (or family plan). I am not sure how the Health Exchanges work in different States in terms of missing the enrollment date. To me, quitting a job to take a 6-month hiking vacation and getting taxpayers to fund an insurance plan seems a little unethical when there are other options.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    Can you walk me through which of your two plans paid for the Giardia tests and treatment?

    Did the medical provider bill your Obama Care insurance policy?

    Did the medical provider bill your travel insurance policy?

    Which policy needed up footing the bill?
    1) The travel plan (secondary insurance)
    2) They did not. This created its own hassles. I had to pay out of pocket initially and get reimbursed through my travel plan.
    3) No, they billed me.
    4) To sum: I was out of state when I was at the urgent care facility. They told me my insurance from PA wouldn't cover their services - which confirmed what I already knew about my plan - and so they wouldn't bill my insurance (in retrospect, this was a mistake. get them to bill your insurance even if you know your insurance will deny coverage). You can't bill secondary insurance directly, because the whole point of secondary insurance is that your primary insurance has already denied coverage. So when I went to get reimbursed through my travel plan, initially they told me that they wouldn't pay me back because there was no proof I had already tried to bill my primary insurance (obamacare plan), even though I had the urgent care facility attach a note saying that they knew they were not contracted with my plan. So anyway, I had to go through a bureaucratic process of getting my primary insurance to deny the claim simply so I could show my secondary insurance that denial. Ultimately the secondary insurance came through. It did take about 6 months in total. Not fun. That clarify enough?

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