Travel and Health Insurance
Travel and health insurance are not exactly the most exciting topics when planning a RTW trip. However, both are very important considerations. We ultimately decided to go with Christian Healthcare Ministries for our health insurance (although it’s not actually health or medical insurance…keep reading or watching for details) and World Nomads for travel insurance.
Health / Medical Insurance
As United States citizens, we do not have universal healthcare. Rachel and I both currently receive health insurance through our employers. Since we are leaving our jobs, our insurance will end once we separate from our employment. While some people just rely on their travel insurance, we wanted something that would cover us in case something really serious happened that required us to return to the United States for case. As most people know, medical costs are very high here in the states. We were not willing to risk having zero coverage.
Several people suggested COBRA, which is a federal act that enables people to keep their employer-based group health insurance for up to 18 months after leaving employment by paying all of the premium cost (including the portion currently paid by the employer). While this sounds great, it would be exceedingly and impossibly expensive (more than $1,200 per month for the two of us; over $14,000 for the year).
The next option we explored was purchasing individual health insurance policies. There are two ways to do this:
- Insurance Broker
- Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange web site – HealthCare.gov
I spoke with a broker and he explained that the insurance plans he can offer us are based on our zip code. He also pointed out that these are the exact same plans available through the ACA so there was really no benefit for us to go through a broker. It is important to note that your only option are those plans offered in your zip code; you can’t shop around outside of your area. I went to the ACA web site, plugged in our information, and discovered that there is one insurance company offering coverage in our zip code. Monthly insurance premiums covering both of us ranged from $836 per month to $1534 per month depending on the plan.
The lowest cost version at $836 per month would put our premium for the year at just over $10,000. Additionally, this plan has a $6,500 individual and $13,000 family deductible. If we need to use the insurance, we will have to pay the deductible before receiving any coverage. As an individual, this puts us at around $16,500 out-of-pocket before coverage starts. A few important points:
- This pricing is good through December, at which point rates will likely go up. They have steadily been rising year-to-year, and we’ll be a year older which will also increase rates.
- International coverage would be for “very limited emergency coverage” as per the insurance company representative. The representative also said that we would want to purchase an additional travel coverage plan through them, which would be an added cost. Since we don’t plan to be back in the U.S. for the year, this won’t do us much good unless there was something catastrophic requiring us to return home for medical care.
- This base plan is not exactly great. It’s the lowest/cheapest possible plan and coverage levels are the bare minimum.
We looked at some international health insurance plans (which operate more like traditional health insurance, yet internationally), but did not find one that was a good fit. Monthly premiums (if we included the United States) were almost as expensive as the ACA exchange insurance plan above. In addition, based on the activities we want to do, gear coverage, etc., we would still want to have travel insurance so it’s not like we could have cancelled that to reduce overall costs.
So what other option do we have?
Medical Expense Sharing Programs
As we researched, we learned more about healthcare sharing ministries. The insurance broker I reference above mentioned that this might be a good option for us. Good friends of ours told us that they recently signed up with one and new RTW traveler friends of ours belong to one. In addition, for years I have listened to Dave Ramsey, a finance/budget author and radio host, and he has promoted health care sharing ministries as an alternative to traditional health insurance on his show.
For those not familiar, a Christian health care sharing ministry is where members share each other’s medical expenses. It is not insurance. Rather, participants pay monthly dues (various programs/levels are available at different costs). Your dues are used to pay other member’s medical bills. Likewise, should you have medical costs you submit your medical bills to receive financial support. These programs are ACA compliant, which means that if you are a part of one you are not subject to the ACA penalty if you are not covered by health insurance.
This is a very basic overview and I would suggest those interested in learning more to review the web sites of several of these organizations.
Some of the major health care sharing ministries include:
- Christian Healthcare Ministries – the one Dave Ramsey promotes on his show
- Liberty HealthShare
- Samaritan Ministries
Our Choice = Christian Healthcare Ministries
After reviewing the various web sites, reviews, talking with representatives on the telephone, and comparing the size of the organizations, Christian Healthcare Ministries was the best fit for us.
- The cost is $300 per month for their “Gold” program (this covers both of us). We also signed up for “Brother’s Keeper”, which provides unlimited cost support per illness (diagnosis) versus the typical $125,000 limit. This will be an additional $50 per quarter.
- We can submit international medical expenses!
- Here is something very cool. In the monthly newsletter, there is a section devoted to individuals who have medical expenses due to pre-existing conditions that are not covered…or not fully covered. Members can then provide additional financial support to these people. The newsletter shows how much in medical bills the individual has, as well as how much has been contributed so far. It was impressive and heart-warming to see the levels of support provided. It reinforced that these are ministries that are about people helping and supporting one another.
Unlike health or medical insurance, travel insurance is designed to provide coverage for things like trip cancellation, emergency medical expenses, emergency medical transportation, and gear/equipment. In all of our research and in conversations with other world travelers, one name kept coming up repeatedly: World Nomads
Full details on their program is available on their web site at WorldNomads.com
When determining pricing, they ask you for the dates of travel (up to 1 year), traveler’s ages, country of residence, and the countries you plan to visit. There were two options for one full year of coverage (this covers both of us) with World Nomads:
- Standard Plan = $2549 (approx $212/month)
- Explorer Plan = $3235 (approx $269/month) – WE CHOSE THIS ONE
The difference between the two plans comes down to the amount of coverage for emergency evaluation and repatriation, trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, baggage and personal effects, and accidental death and dismemberment (ouch!). A few additional important differences include:
- The Standard Plan covers $1,000 in personal effects and the Explorer Plan covers $3,000. If you have expensive electronics equipment with you, it may be worth researching to see if a separate electronics insurance plan is worthwhile.
- The Explorer Plan includes a $35,000 Collision Damage Waiver for for damage to a rental car while in your possession, for any cause not within your control, including but not limited to: collision, theft or natural disaster.
- The Explorer Plan also includes coverage for additional sports and activities. Travelers will want to look at this closely. For example, activities covered under the Explorer Plan but not the Standard Plan include hot air ballooning, bobsled, caving/spelunking, cliff jumping, jet pack, rickshaw run, etc. Depending on how adventurous you plan to be, this is worth reviewing carefully!
Final $$ Tally
As described, we will be spending approximately $317 per month for Christian Healthcare Ministries and $269 per month for World Nomads.
Grand total: $586 per month (this covers both of us)
Expensive, yes, but we hope we never have to use any of it. If we do, we’ll let you know how it goes!
Do you have any thoughts to share about hitting the life reset button or healthcare while traveling? Please post below or contact us directly!