To health insurance or not to health insurance? That is the question.

Are you kidding me? That is NOT a question.

Isn’t this the cutest little Jor you’ve ever seen? I still have a sweet spot in my heart for nerdy little bespectacled kids. No, this isn’t Photo Shopped. Why do you ask?

Let’s just say I may be a little prone to injury. My mom has many pictures of a three year old Jordana with big owl-like glasses, a major under-bite, and bandaids on both knees.

When I was a college freshman, I hurt my back the first time working a catering job and attempting to haul a 40 pound bag of ice over my shoulder. During my first year in AmeriCorps (2003-4), I received a birthday gift from my friend An. Among the girly magazines and other feel-good gifts was an Ace bandage with the following note (or at least the sentiment), “Because Jor + physical labor will almost certainly end in disaster.” True to form, at the end of that year, literally on the last day of work, I was wielding a sledge hammer and threw out my back. Are you noticing a trend yet?

I’ve gotten more careful over time, but it’s still never a bad idea to take precautions. In addition to the biomechanic threats, there are also the big scary bugs: (Lyme disease-y) ticks, (skin-melting) brown recluse spiders, (West Nile-y) mosquitoes, and maybe even worst of all: chiggers.

When I was in AmeriCorps during my second year of service (2006-7), I spent a few days clearing invasive species at a state park near Charleston, SC. It was June and particularly hot, which was prime chigger weather. When I got home after the second or third day, I noticed a rash ringing both my left and right ankles as well as my pant buckle seam and bra line. I didn’t immediately realize what it was, but with a little googling I realized the symptoms.

Chiggers are tiny bugs that crawl on your skin until they hit a barrier (socks, pant seam, bra line). Then they dig in. Soon the itching intensified. I was stricken. It took almost two weeks for the bites to subside. I would wake up in the middle of the night in the midst of scratching with my legs streaked raw. I was bordering on whimpering.

Seriously, though, I recognize that there are critters worse than chiggers. Since high school I’ve had a real fear of Lyme disease. See, there was this reality show on MTV you may have heard of called The Real World. In the season taped in Seattle there was a woman named Irene. All you need to know about Irene is that 1) she had Lyme disease and 2) she was crazy with a capital C. I know I shouldn’t believe everything I watch on TV, but since then I’ve had a real fear of catching the disease from a tick for fear of going ca-razy.

Having done some research on it recently, I realize that my concern is not ungrounded. The northeast of the U.S. is a high risk area, and the mid-Atlantic has a moderate risk (and, for that matter, I have two friends that have gotten it in the recent past). If left untreated for several months, the disease can become chronic and cause long-term neurological symptoms (no good, definitely no good). So checking myself for ticks and the tell-tale bulls-eye rash will become a necessary nightly ritual.

Even so, I’m going to need health insurance should anything happen. So recently I had a friend at work tap into his network in HR to see if I might be able to hang onto my policy during my hiatus. As much as I’m ready to jump ship for the A.T., I still have a positive relationship with my employer and would like to consider returning should a position be available. I thought, “Maybe they’ll let me take a leave of absence and hold onto my benefits.”

Wrong. I found out today that that’s not going to happen. I can take a max of 30 days of unpaid leave with benefits. Oh well, it was worth a try.

Mmm mmm good. I do love the taste of health insurance. Oh wait, wrong photo.

Always have a plan B, right? As you should know by now, when all else fails, I turn to my friendly neighborhood Costco for support. Costco: where I go for jerky, car batteries, carrot juice, glasses, and health insurance…why not? The Costco website allows you to fill out your requisites for health insurance and will quote a commensurate price. Having checked it out, I found that I can get an individual plan with a high deductible ($7,500) for as little as $101 per month, or I can opt for a deductible as low as $3,000 for $178 per month.

This search was just my first pass through. I really haven’t delved that deeply into different insurance plan options. However, it really does feel good to know that options exist.

Chances are I won’t actually use my health insurance much. Mole skin: yes. Ibuprofen: yes. Health insurance: eh. But everybody knows that it only rains if you forget to bring your umbrella. And since I hear it rains a lot on the Appalachian Trail, I better not forget that umbrella.

Meandering on,



20 thoughts on “To health insurance or not to health insurance? That is the question.

    • Nah, I just put all my bad luck stories in one place. It’s a constant exercise in learning where to stretch one’s limits and where not to. I got this, no biggie.

  1. Pingback: Whoomp there it is…(the fine print) | onthevector

  2. I was nearly killed 23 years ago when I got struck by lightning. No kidding; at the time, I was the most seriously injured person to ever survive being hit by lightning (I wrote a short bio, “In A Flash”, about it; its on Kindle or Smashwords.) Lightning is the main reason you should get good coverage, Jordana. 23 years later, I’m still suffering major pain from my injuries. And lightning is a real issue on the AT when you get to some of the high elevations. People don’t tend to think of this as being a problem they could encounter on The Trail, but it is–my family had a friend who was a ranger in Shenandoah Nat’l Park, and he was struck by lightning 5 times. It finally killed him.

  3. Chiggers: Here is your solution. I grew up in Missouri where these buggers were common place in the summer. Once they are in your skin, take finger nail polish (clear or, if adventurous, a random color) and paint over them. A nice size spot. You are trying to cut off their oxygen supply. They will die overnight and not itch and then the polish just peels off. I know you don’t want to carry too much stuff on your trek, but this might save some sanity.

  4. I love the photo of you with your “glasses and band aids”. If anything health insurance will bring you peace of mind. You’re right, you may not use it but better to be safe than sorry. Good post!

    • Haha, I can’t help but laugh at that photo because it’s the most artistic skill I’ve mustered in a while (took quite a bit of effort!)…and that’s clearly not saying a lot.

  5. Here is a little trick to protect yourself in regards to health insurance. You want to check out “trip insurance”. This is what I did for my AT Thruhike. I left my job and did not want to pay the COBRA for my health insurance, and my wife has a plan that fully pays her plan, but if she adds me it would have gone up to $450/month. I purchased Trip Insurance, and purchased the best plan available that covers everything including medical emergencies (Do Not Skimp Here to save a few bucks) You will spend hundreds of dollars more than you can ever plan for on basic necessities. This will cover you if you have emergency medical issues, need to be extricated, plus including the payment for the airfare home. The insurance covered the trip for 6 months (it took me 5 months to complete the trail with many extra zero days to spend time with family), It cost me about $950 for the whole 6 months. A tip to purchasing this insurance is that they base it on the cost of the trip, and you want to tell them the cost of the airfare to Atlanta, and the firs night stay (probably at the Hiker’s Hostel). They will ask for your beginning and end destination points, I gave them my home to Atlanta and then Millinocket, Maine to my home. They seemed to have no problem with my trip being a hike. Oh, trip insurance has a ZERO deductible. You will have to pay or be billed your medical expenses and submit them for reimbursement. I did not have to use my insurance on the hike, but in the past I have used the medical reimbursement and it was just a matter of submitting the bill and the check arrived in a week or two.

    • Whoa whoa whoa this sounds way promising. What was your source (ie company) of trip insurance? And did you find it difficult to get health insurance coverage (if you have it) when you finished?

  6. Pingback: I’ll stop procrastinating…tomorrow. « My Meandering Trail

  7. Just to share…I know someone who was affected by Lyme disease, a person who has also been diagnosed with RA (Rheumatoid arthritis). She reports it was a very painful time,and made her extremely weak and exhausted but she lived through it…just sharing a success story 🙂 I totally agree with checking yourself daily though, prevention! Enjoyed reading…

    • Yeah, I have a couple of friends that got it last year. One got on antibiotics right away. The other suffered severe neurological illness (dizzy, weak, exhausted, double vision, etc.) before they figured it out. I’ve got a prescription of Doxy (antibiotic) in case I start to suffer symptoms (or issues from contaminated water, for that matter). I hope your friend’s completely recovered. Thanks for sharing!

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