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How to Find Medical Care While You Travel
Health Insurance on the Road
by Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak

Walk-in Clinic
Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
Walk-in clinic in Snowflake, Arizona

Help for Making Decisions about Health Insurance

The New Health Insurance SolutionThe New Health Insurance Solution: How to Get Cheaper, Better Coverage Without a Traditional Employer Plan, by Paul Zane Pilzer. This book is a must-have for anyone searching for health insurance. It explains the intricacies of COBRA and HIPAA and includes information on Medicare, staying well, and saving money on prescription drugs and treatments. I highly recommend it.

My book, Support Your RV Lifestyle! An Insider's Guide to Working on the Road, includes a chapter that discusses how to find health insurance coverage and ways to find free and reduced-cost medical coverage.

"Navigating Your Health Benefits for Dummies" is a free publication from Aetna. Order at

AARP has a section on health on its Web site that includes numerous articles on health insurance.

Helicopter ambulance
Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
Hospital helicopter in Payson, Arizona

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
Emergency room in Payson, Arizona

Urgent Care
Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
Urgent care facility in Payson, Arizona

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak
Pharmacy in Pine, Arizona

So you want to retire to the open road in your RV. Thousands of people do it every year, and few would trade this stimulating, mobile lifestyle for the jobs they left behind. But what about health insurance?

Some retirement packages include continuing health coverage but, sadly, most do not. In fact, many retirees who were once covered are now in a bind as the rising cost of health insurance is forcing many companies to drop coverage for retirees or raise the rates to unmanageable amounts.

So if you want to travel, what do you do? Postpone your dream? Continue to work until you are eligible for Medicare? And what if you have a pre-existing medical condition that makes obtaining a policy almost impossible? Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

Before you quit your job. If you are currently employed and have health insurance, don't quit before making plans for coverage after retirement. You may be eligible for a conversion policy, or you may need to keep your current coverage to qualify for an individual policy, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

Once you are in the market for a policy, proceed carefully. You do not want to be turned down. A rejection by an insurance company will be recorded in your permanent record with the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), a central database shared by some 600 life insurance and health insurance companies, making it more difficult or impossible to get coverage from any other company. A good independent health insurance agent can help you determine if you will be accepted or can help you withdraw a submitted application if it looks like it will be rejected.

Now would also be a good time to call the Medical Information Bureau (866-692-6901) to find out what's in your record. Some entries may be incorrect or could be rewritten more favorably, affecting both your rate and your coverage. You can receive one free report each year.

Choosing your domicile. Domicile is the place where a person has his or her permanent legal home. A person may have several residences, but can have only one domicile. Full-time RVers can choose their domicile. Since states vary tremendously in the regulation and pricing of health insurance, you may wish to consider insurance coverage when choosing your domicile.

Two good resources for researching state insurance regulations are "The New Health Insurance Solution," a book by Paul Zane Pilzer (see especially Appendix A), and "A Consumer Guide for Getting and Keeping Health Insurance" from Pilzer's book also covers residency requirements.

Note that two states, Massachusetts and Vermont, have recently enacted universal coverage, and other states are watching those experiments closely.

Choosing a policy. There is no one-size-fits-all health insurance policy and no easy way to find a policy without doing a lot of research. Use the resources mentioned in the sidebar and talk to other RVers. If you have special circumstances, or can't understand all the fine print, then locate an independent agent. Some general advice applies to everyone.

1. While you are researching the particular rules and protections in your state on, check out the records of the insurers operating in the state. Also find out about financial assistance -- you may qualify.

2. Check out the report cards issued by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which rates health insurance policies that have been accredited by the organization.

3. Use an online search site like to compare plans and get quotes. But be wary of sites that request your name and address or other personal information before providing a quote; they may not deliver online quotes and instead sell your personal information.
4. Even if you don't have special circumstances, consider using an independent agent, i.e. one who represents a number of different insurance companies. An independent agent can tell you which companies are reliable and help you with the application process.

As for particular policy features, consider the following:

What about pre-existing conditions? People who have pre-existing medical conditions have the most trouble finding coverage. Many states allow insurers to exclude these conditions, charge exorbitant rates for them or refuse coverage altogether. "The New Health Insurance Solution" is an excellent resource for RVers in this situation. Here are some key points from the book:

Remember, HIPAA ensures the portability of health insurance if you lose or change your job, regardless of pre-existing conditions. Certain conditions must be met, however, so do your research before leaving or retiring from your workplace.

Five states -- New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont -- are "community-rated," meaning that your health and age do not affect the size of your premiums.

What about working on the road? I'm a big proponent of working on the road, both for extra cash and for the interesting people and experiences you'll encounter; in fact, I've written a book on the subject (see Resources). Road jobs don't often provide health insurance, but a few do. Kelly Services, an agency for temporary workers, offers health insurance through a third-party vendor. You can easily transfer your records from one Kelly location to another as you travel. Contact local Kelly offices for information.

AARP's National Employer Team includes some employers -- Home Depot, for example -- who extend benefits to seasonal workers who work in two different locations. Home Depot also provides some benefits to part-time workers.

Companies looking to recruit older workers sometimes offer benefits as an enticement. Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Ariz., for example, hires health care specialists during the busy winter months when the city almost doubles in size. The benefits include health insurance for workers who work long enough; they also include flexible schedules, housing and mileage allowances.

Two last things

Health insurance is critical to your well-being and your peace of mind on the road. Yes, it will take some work to sort out what coverage you need and how to get it, but when you are out traveling in your RV, seeing all the sights North America has to offer, you'll know it was well worth it.

Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak

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