Tuesday, October 23, 2012

D.A.N is the Man

Screen shot from Diversalertnetwork.org
We get lots of questions from readers.  One of the ones that I field the most is "do you have insurance?".  The short answer is yes and no.  Isla and I are insured through Blue Cross Blue Shield,  Scott is uninsured.  I was insured just before I got pregnant so that I could be covered just in case (phew...having a baby stateside is expensive. We almost opted to have our baby in Grenada which, incidentally, would have cost about $3,000 out of pocket).  When we left on this journey, both Scott and I went uninsured.  This is a gamble when you're in the U S of A where an aspirin from hospital costs $15.  Abroad however, I have found the odds of finding affordable care much higher so we opted to risk it.

Before I continue on I would like to direct everyone to my DISCLAIMER.  Please read it before you read the rest of my post.  I'll wait...

(elevator music)

Great.  You're back.  Now back to my post...Keep in mind:  THIS IS COMING FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A HEALTHY ADULT WITH NO PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS.

When I lived in Africa (3 years), I went uninsured.  While I was there, I was tested for malaria three times (never got it), suffered a horrible case of shell-fish food poisoning (the worst kind) and I battled one super nasty bout of dysentery (want to lose twenty pounds?  That'll do it!).  The malaria tests each cost me a whopping $1 USD (at the time) and - had I tested positive for malaria - the medicine would have cost something like $2 USD.  That's it.  When I got food poisoning I went on a drip for fluid and was given some sort of treatment (exactly what it was has since left my brain).  Whole thing cost me maybe $15.  When I got dysentery (a thoroughly unpleasant experience, I might add) I ended up in the hospital for two nights and received a bunch of IV's of fluid and a few handfulls of pills the size of cockroaches.  Granted, the hospital's only toilet was a hole in the ground (again - thoroughly unpleasant whilst suffering dysentery and attached to an IV) but the whole ordeal cost me something like $100 bucks give or take.  While I don't remember the exact dollars and cents, I do recall I had the money in my pocket to cover it all and I've never been one to walk around with too much money in my pocket.

What's my point you ask?  Well, two things:
1) Tropical places are the experts in diagnosing/treating tropical disease and
2) Health care in many other countries is suuuuuper affordable.

The little stuff like bumps, bruises, cuts, infections, tropical disease and probably even a broken bone, I'll happily pay a local doctor to treat.  The big stuff like transplants, transfusions, and anything that involves vital organs and/or your life hanging precariously on percentage points, well, I might want to be elsewhere.

One thing I heard a lot about throughout our travels was Divers Alert Network (D.A.N) membership and the subsequent Travelassist insurance that comes with it.  Many cruisers we met carry the membership and now that we're responsible parents, I thought we should too.  The particulars of the plan can be found HERE, but basically, in the event of a serious emergency in some remote locale (and it does not have to be dive-related), D.A.N will pay to transport you to a more developed locale that can treat your problems.  This is a pretty big deal and we paid a whopping $55 for our family membership.  There are other insurance plans D.A.N offers that you might want to consider depending on your situation, but the basic package will cover you for the evacuation.
While this is not health insurance, it does offer some peace of mind to know that if tragedy were to strike, we'd be able to get to somewhere where we will get better care.  Like they say, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye!"

What do you readers who cruise do for insurance?  Do you take the gamble or are you fully covered?  Anyone have any personal stories where D.A.N has helped out?  Please share your thoughts and experience in our comments so we ALL can learn!

7 comments:

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

One thing that I'd like to add to the whole discussion of insurance for cruisers is what happens when you return to the US. Yes, I know that many cruisers think they'll cruise forever. But many do cruise for a period of years, then decide to go back to living in the US. Or they can get a serious health problem and decide they'd like to be treated in the US . . . or the problem makes cruising impractical and they decide to return to the US. I know, these scenarios aren't part of the dream.

US health insurance is in a big state of flux right now and who knows what will happen. BUT if you've gone without coverage and then get something that would be called a "pre-existing condition" it's going to be very hard to find health insurance that you can afford in the US. I know. It happened to me.

We had US health insurance through the company that Dave retired from. When that company went bankrupt, we lost our insurance. I have problems with cholesterol and blood pressure -- nothing that would be called serious, but several insurance companies refused to cover me at all.

I finally did get insurance because of the fact that I had continuous coverage up to that point. If I had been previously uninsured, I don't know if I would have found any that we could afford (mine is still expensive, just not the $3000 a month that one high-risk pool quoted).

As I said, the whole US health insurance scene is sort of unknown right now. But for anyone thinking of going uninsured while cruising, think seriously about what will happen when you decide to return to the US . . . particularly if you have a medical condition at that time.

Can you -- or your spouse -- quickly get a job with a large company that offers insurance? That and Medicare are about the only certain ways of gaining coverage.

I don't want to be a downer here, but we've had a number of cruising friends face this issue.

Dave said...

I agree, that is super cheap for an evac insurance. WE don't have insurance (we are Canadian, so we can fly home if it is something serious). But most medical issues are small. I dislocated my shoulder here in Panama and the hospital put it back in (x-rays, pain killers, muscle relaxants) for $12 and a $10 tip to the orderly (he waived the Dr. fees for me).

Tytti said...

How about a life insurance? Especially for Scott as he now seems the major provider for the family?

Brittany Meyers said...

Carolyn - You are NOT a downer - this is the kind of stuff that really helps people! As usual, you enhance this blog with your wisdom! You are so right (which is why I stated that the post was from my perspective, healthy adult with no pre-existing conditions) and that is something many cruisers should DEFINITELY consider, especially since many cruiser are a bit older than us which is when ailments tend to creep up (or pile on). Thanks friend! xo
@ Dave - bummer about the shoulder, but happy that you got it fixed for less than a night out on the town!
@Tytti - we don't have life insurance.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

I was going to post something similar to Carolyn...but then I saw hers! As someone who sells health insurance - insurance laws vary from state to state (for instance, in NY and MA they cannot discriminate based on pre-existing conditions for an individual (non-group) policy, but they can in CT. Of course the premiums reflect this.)

Many clients opt for a high deductible plan (bascially catastrophic coverge) and pay out of pocket for the "small stuff" and rely on the policy for the "big" stuff.

Another note - If you get "international" or "Foreign" health insurance - most do not cover care in the US (because cost of care here is so darned expensive) and limit your time spent in the US to 6 mos (or some other time frame).

Just more things to consider.

bwillis said...

I am a PADI dive instructor and have had DAN insurance for many years. I've seen it work and it's a beautiful thing. I rescued a friend on a dive in the middle of no where off the island of Bonaire, and he went to the decompression chamber for 8 hours and DAN took care of things. They are always right there if you need to call - no cyber voice - just a regular human being, ready to offer good advice.

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Thanks Brittany for this great information! While Ken and I have health insurance, it's good to know we can cheaply add this coverage once we start cruising!

Glad to read Carolyn's input, as we wonder about dropping our health insurance once we start cruising. Her thoughts make me think twice ... perhaps just raise our deductible sky high just to keep the insurance in order to avoid "pre-existing" conditions if one of us should become ill.

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