Finding Medical Care on the Road
Health Care is the Most Important Factor to Older Travelers and Here is How to Get It
By Ainsley Lawrence
The nomadic lifestyle is quite popular, but one of the biggest concerns for these road warriors is where to find affordable medical care services.
Many will just figure it out as situations arise, but this can put you in precarious and even dangerous situations — especially if your life is on the line. As Americans collectively get older, health care becomes a top priority.
Prepare for Medical Situations
Whether you are traveling solo on the road or traveling with children or other passengers, it’s crucial to prepare ahead of time for medical situations. This includes emergencies, general check-ups, and care for minor injuries and illnesses.
The last thing you want is to be stuck on the road while sick or even severely injured without access to medical care.
When it comes to your health and well-being, winging it is not an option. Even if you are in good health and physical shape, you never know what might happen. And if you are unprepared, you could be putting your life at risk.
In this article, we will provide you with some tips on how to find medical care and prepare for medical situations while living or working on the road.
Save and Budget for Healthcare Expenses
The biggest issue with finding healthcare on the road is often the cost. Most people who choose the nomadic lifestyle do so to live a more affordable and flexible life, so paying high costs for healthcare is less than desirable.
But, good healthcare is essential. You might not like that you have to pay for it, but you will be happy that you prepared yourself financially when the time comes and you need emergency medical care.
Younger generations today have higher rates of debt, which means they often look for ways to cut costs. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s okay to skimp on healthcare. If there is one thing you should prioritize, it’s your health — especially if you are living on the road.
Whether you plan to hit the road temporarily or live as a full-time nomad, budgeting for healthcare expenses ahead of time and during your travels can help. Even if it’s just a small amount each month that you put into a savings account just for medical purposes, every little bit can help. And you’ll be happy that you did this if you find yourself needing to check into an ER or urgent care unexpectedly.
Have a Plan for Medical Care
Another important step to take before you hit the road is to make a plan for what you will do if something happens. Even if you are generally a “figure things out in the moment” type of person, this is not wise when it comes to your health.
If you get into a car accident while on the road and end up with a broken bone, for example, you will potentially be in too much pain to think wisely at that moment about what you should do. If you make a plan ahead of time, you will be better prepared.
Smart healthcare planning while traveling on the road can include:
- Map out your route and make note of healthcare facilities and hospitals along the way. Write down addresses and phone numbers, so you don’t have to look them up in the moment.
- Look into where you can stop and get Wi-Fi access so you can set up an urgent telehealth appointment last minute if needed.
- If you are traveling internationally, do some research on healthcare options for foreign visitors.
- Enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This allows you to monitor health-related travel advisories, enables the government to keep track of you in case you have a serious legal or medical emergency, and allows STEP to help friends and family contact you if necessary.
- Look into travel health insurance.
- Have a variety of medications and first-aid supplies on hand to get you through until you can get help if needed.
Choose the Right Health Insurance Plan
Not all health insurance plans are the same, and some offer better travel health benefits than others. If you plan to be on the road a lot, it’s smart to look into a health plan that will suit your nomadic needs.
Blue Cross Blue Shield, for example, offers members the option to enroll in their BlueCard Worldwide program. The plan provides benefits to you while you are traveling, but what exactly is covered can vary depending on the medical facility or hospital you visit.
UnitedHealthcare and Humana also offer travel medical care benefits, but the benefits and coverage can vary greatly. So if you choose one of these options, make sure you are fully aware of what your options are, where you can visit and have coverage, and how much any out-of-pocket costs might be.
Many major health insurance providers also automatically offer coverage for out-of-state emergencies. Make sure you know what constitutes an emergency, however. You don’t want to visit a doctor or hospital while traveling only to get slapped with a massive bill because your provider didn’t consider your visit an emergency. Wording can be tricky with health insurance plans, so make sure you call and talk to someone to verify ahead of time what they consider an emergency.
Some medical plans that offer emergency travel coverage also require that you get pre-authorization first before seeking care. This is another thing to look out for and make a note of when shopping for a plan for your nomadic life.
Additionally, some providers require upfront payment for bills, while others allow you to pay later and may even offer payment plans and financial assistance. Don’t just avoid getting care if you think you can’t afford it, as there may be options. You just need to know what those options are ahead of time so you don’t get surprised by unexpected costs.
Schedule Annual Wellness Exams Accordingly
Scheduling your annual physical exams and wellness exams in advance can go a long way toward helping you cut healthcare costs. Many people dismiss annual exams as unnecessary, but getting one can help you catch something early and help you stay in overall better health so you can avoid getting sick while on the road.
Scheduling these kinds of exams in advance will allow you to plan your road trip accordingly so you can get back home in time to get checked out.
This will also allow you to spend less as you will be going to your own provider, and it will keep you informed of any concerns with your health that you might need to prepare for before hitting the road. This lessens the possibility that something health-related sneaks up on you unexpectedly.
Set Up a Telehealth Account
Most healthcare providers offer telehealth for medical care services today, but some might require you to set up a telehealth account in advance before you can start making use of these services. Telehealth can be incredibly useful for those who travel on the road as it allows you to set up a digital appointment, no matter where you are, as long as you have internet service.
You can even get telemedicine internationally. Just make sure you are aware ahead of time of how it works and any costs involved. The same as visiting a facility in person, you want to make sure you know exactly what is covered so you don’t get slapped with any unexpected fees or major bills.
Finding yourself in a medical emergency while traveling on the road can be scary, but you can ensure the situation goes a lot smoother if you are fully prepared ahead of time. By setting up a budget specifically for healthcare costs, sighing up for the right plan, knowing exactly where to go for medical services, and using telehealth, you will have most of your bases covered and will feel a lot better when the time comes to seek out the care you need.