Since December 2011, a friend of ours (thank you, Craig!) - after reading our previous post - told us that we may indeed qualify for COBRA, contrary to some information we found in an article posted through Meet, Plan, Go - Travel Health Insurance Providing Credible Coverage: Why You Need It, and Where to Find It. In fact, the United States Department of Labor provides a comprehensive online FAQ page that answers a lot of questions we had. It discusses qualifying events, eligibility, and continuation of coverage.
After contacting our respective employers, we found out that Mike's COBRA would cost $400/month and Akiko's COBRA benefits would cost approximately $500/month to maintain. Okay..."slightly" expensive, but we weren't going to rule it out just yet.
Without knowing the status of Mike's leave-of-absence request, and the COBRA plans being financially undesirable, we continued researching private health insurance plan options. We were pleased with the service that we received through the online 'clearinghouse' of major health insurance providers at eHealthInsurance (www.ehealthinsurance.com).
We opted to look into Family Health Insurance plans, instead of the Short-term Health Insurance plans. The short-term plans are not ideal because they are are usually good for only 6-months, in which we would have to renew the policy in the middle of our trip. In addition, short-term plans are non-creditable, meaning that any health conditions acquired prior to joining an employer's group plan in the future may be subject to the pre-existing condition clause. This exclusion may be waived or shortened by proof of having maintained creditable coverage. Although we would pay more in premiums, a Family Health plan is creditable coverage.
We were able to compare various Family Health plans through eHealthInsurance. There were many different plans to choose from, but in order to keep the cost of the premiums low, we selected the PPO plan from BlueCross Blue Shield (BCBS) with a high $10,000 deductible and no prescription coverage for a quote of approximately $190/month. After selecting our desired plan and completing the application form, eHealthInsurance forwarded our application to BCBS for approval. Because our last names are different, BCBS requested a copy of our marriage license in order to qualify for the family plan. Once we emailed it to them, we received approval within a week. The online process was very easy and we were able to verify the status of our application online at any time. Customer service was prompt and professional.
Although Mike's employer granted him a 3-month leave of absence, where he could maintain his company group health insurance plan, we decided to forego this option as the time period would be limited and we were already insured through the BCBS plan.
So, after all is said and done, this is what we have for our health insurance coverage:
- Travel Insurance: provided through Travel Guard, purchased with our round-the-world tickets via www.airtreks.com. Benefits include trip cancellation, interruption, and delay; missed connection; baggage and personal effects loss; and medical expenses up to $50,000. There is no deductible on our travel insurance.
- Emergency Medical Evacuation Coverage: a very important consideration of any trip is, "how am I going to get back if I get hurt/sick in a foreign country?" Medical evacuation costs can add up after purchasing same-day or next-day first-class tickets (may need to be in a reclining position the entire time), and private nurse accompaniment. Our policy has a $100,000 limit for medical evacuation.
- Health Insurance in the States: trip insurance is effective only during the duration of the trip, so the BCBS PPO policy covers us while we are stateside, and until our future employer's group plan kicks in.
Here's an example of how the above policies will work for us: one of us gets hurt/sick while traveling abroad > our travel insurance kicks in > if the injury/illness requires an evacuation, we have insurance to cover that cost > once we arrive in a stateside hospital, our BCBS policy kicks-in, but also, the travel insurance will cover the $10,000 deductible.
We hope it never comes to this, but we can't be too careful. Hopefully, this clarifies the options and the decision process we went through to determine our insurance!