Medical Stuff

People often ask me how I manage my medical care on the road:  how do I get my prescriptions refilled, what do I do for health insurance, what happens when I need to see a doctor?  I’m very fortunate to be a generally healthy person at the moment, which makes all of this much easier.  Since I’m back in Bucks County right now taking care of a bunch of medical “business”, it’s very much on my mind and a good time to write about it.

First, health insurance.   When I was working, I was contributing about $600/month for medical insurance for me and my son.  It was platinum coverage – co-pays were generally $10 per doctor visit, and there was no deductible or coinsurance.  When I first retired, I stayed on the same plan through the retiree group at a cost of $1,300/month for just me (my son graduated from college and went out on his own), but I knew it wasn’t sustainable.   I had three and a half years to go before Medicare would kick in; I needed to find a less expensive solution.

So I decided to check out Obamacare.  As you probably know, the exchanges are state based.  Although I was a resident of Pennsylvania when I first retired, I planned to become a resident of Florida shortly thereafter.  So I started out with the expensive retiree group coverage through my former employer for the first few months, and then switched to a high deductible, low premium plan on the Florida state exchange once I became a resident there.

On the Florida exchange, I had a choice of over 50 plans offered by several insurance providers.  I was especially concerned about coverage while traveling, so in addition to cost, I focused on how the insurance company defined in-network versus out-of-network medical providers.

I was thrilled to find a Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plan with a nationwide network, which costs me about $275/month, with a deductible of $7,500.  If I’m healthy, I save a tremendous amount in premiums.  If I’m sick, I figure that the monthly premium plus the deductible is still less than the premiums for the retiree group plan through my former employer.  And perhaps most importantly, BCBS providers are all over the country, so I can go to doctors in any state and still be in-network.

Second, prescriptions.  For years, I went to my small neighborhood pharmacy to get my prescriptions filled.  So I had no idea that large national pharmacies offer very high-tech services, which are essential while traveling.  They allow customers to monitor the status of their prescriptions online.  You can see exactly when you’re due for a refill, which doctor ordered the medication, and how many refills you have left.   The very best part is that, with just a few clicks, you can have your prescriptions filled at the pharmacy closest to you, and it can be a different location every time.  It’s all done electronically, and it’s so quick – hit the “EASY” button!!

I started with CVS but I’m with Walgreens now – both have the same service. I take just two daily medications, and the cost for those is very low – about $10/month.  But, this time I needed a prescription filled for a tube of cream I use occasionally, and that cost me $48!  So I’m still feeling my way through what things cost, what’s covered, and what’s going toward my deductible.

Third, doctors.  As I said earlier, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be generally healthy.  I haven’t needed a sick visit to a doctor as yet.  If I did, I would go to the closet Urgent Care, first checking online to find a facility in the BCBS network.

For my well visits, annual checkups, and cancer screenings, I’m keeping the same doctors I had when I lived in Pennsylvania. Thankfully, they’re all in the BCBS network.  I’d rather retain continuity as long as possible, so I’ll plan a trip to Bucks County once a year for for these “well” doctor visits.  I will eventually settle down and find doctors in my future location, and I don’t want to make multiple changes.

One of the reasons I retired early is my very strong sense of how short life is, mostly because both of my younger brothers died before me.  None of us knows how long we have, but I feel like I have extra risk factors.  Three of my four immediate family members had cancer, and I smoked cigarettes for thirty years, which puts me at high risk for lung cancer.  So my lung health is my number one concern.

I’ve been seeing the pulmonary specialists at Fox Chase Cancer Center for a couple of years because of lingering issues from two episodes of pneumonia.  Last May, they declared my lungs stabilized, and now I’m in a program which provides annual screenings for lung cancer, for which I’m very grateful.  This week, I had my first one.  No cancer, thank goodness, but there is a little glitch.

There seems to be an infection and/or inflammation in a new area of my lungs.  They want me to have another scan in two months to see if it’s resolved itself, and meet with the pulmonary specialist. I’m not worried about it, but I’m glad they’re monitoring it.

In two months, I’ll be just starting my stay in Albany, about 200 miles away from Bucks County.  So, I’ll plan to leave the RV at the campground in Albany, drive down to Bucks County in my car, stay with a friend overnight, and then drive back to Albany after the appointment.

If more scans will be required, then it will get a little more complicated – and a lot more expensive as I travel farther away in my RV.  Hopefully, this strange infection will resolve itself by the time of the next scan, and I’ll be good to go!