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Staying Healthy on the Road Medical info, e.g. malaria, vaccinations, travel medical tips, medical insurance, where to find a doctor.
Photo by Igor Djokovic, camping above San Juan river, Arizona USA

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Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance.

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  #1  
Old 2 Aug 2018
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Do We Really Need Medical Insurance in Central and South America?

I know that sounds likes a weird question, but here’s my logic (or perhaps lack of logic!)

My wife and I will be traveling through Central and South America for the better part of a year. She will be 63 and I will be 71. We are US residents. It’s nearly impossible to find travel medical insurance once you hit 70.

We will have good travel and evacuation insurance.

So, for minor medical needs, the cost of local providers is very manageable and not a big financial hit. For anything of a serious nature, the evacuation Insurance would come into play since we would want to be treated US.

That seems to leave only the immediate care for serious illness or injury prior to evacuation to contend with. Though I don’t have a good way to estimate how much that could be, it seems unlikely that it would exceed $5000 USD. Not inconsequential, but not one that would leave us destitute.

I’m interested in other thoughts and opinions. If you think I’m totally flawed in the logic or am missing something, have at it!

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 2 Aug 2018
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I cannot speak from personal experience as a slightly younger Brit medical insurance is somewhat cheaper and easier to come by, but I have seen comments on Advrider from Americans living in Central America to the effect that good medical treatment for even some serious conditions can cost less than a year's insurance premium in the US and that they do not bother with insurance.
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Old 2 Aug 2018
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I would look into each country you plan to pass through and find out what's up. I know at least some provide FREE medical coverage, (even for foreigners)

But critics will say (this varies country to country) it's crap and places you'd end up in are not good. In most countries those with money go to "private" clinics where the best (mostly US trained) doctors may be found.

I know for at least some of those clinics you pay CASH. It's also quite possible your home med insurance will cover your cash outlays as reimbursements. So check with you insurance company before you leave and be sure to save ALL paperwork and receipts for med services received.

Your initial emergency med care may be "hit or miss". But in most countries now there are GOOD private clinics in larger cities. Small villages? Nope.

But your plan to use you Evac insurance to get you back to USA is the BEST ...
if you are well enough to make a 10 hour flight.

I'm with Kaiser in California, and YES they totally cover me in any foreign countries via reimbursement.

There are several Ride Reports on ADV Rider where riders had major surgeries and came out fine! Also read a story or two where some orthopedic procedure was "re-done" once back in USA. Nobody died!

For initial Emergency treatment it will depend where you are ... and really just luck if someone qualified is near you or not.

You will be shocked at just how many really good Doc's are down there ... and how cheap and easy it is to get hold of most medications WAY less than USA prices.
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Old 2 Aug 2018
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mollydog View Post

t's also quite possible your home med insurance will cover your cash outlays as reimbursements. So check with you insurance company before you leave and be sure to save ALL paperwork and receipts for med services received.

<snip>

But your plan to use you Evac insurance to get you back to USA is the BEST ...
if you are well enough to make a 10 hour flight.

Unfortunately US Medicare, in fact almost any US insurance, does not reimburse for expenses incurred during extended (more than 3 months) travel.

And, good point about being able to make a 10 hour flight!

One thing we have going in our favor is that we will be on Ural sidecar rig. We are significant less likely to have a serious injury from a single-vehicle accident. That said, we can get t-boned just as easily as a 2-Wheeler can.
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Old 3 Aug 2018
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Wow! Did not know about the MediCare exclusion for time. I guess they think everyone is doing a 10 day cruise or something?
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Old 3 Aug 2018
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Originally Posted by Cholo View Post
Yes you do
a heart attack, bike crash etc will have you in hospital weeks before you can be flown out. What will that cost? no idea, but you better have the cash to settle the bill if not they won't let you leave, making your evacuation insurance useless.
There is a post here somewhere of a guy that had same problem in Bolivia, (imho the s--thole of the world) Hospital wouldn't let patient be evacuated till he paid (he died)
BTW I understand that medical cover in Brazil is free, worth investigating
Basic medical care is free in many Latin American countries. I no longer remember which ones ... but worth looking into. But as I said ... that basic care can be FAR below what we are used to.

This is why private clinics do well with more well off patients ... and foreigners.
But even in some of those the state may pay a portion of your bill. Research to find specific plans in each country.

You will hear some nightmare stories about govt. run clinics, but not all are horrible, but a shock to us in some cases.

Other knock on some free health care down there is crowding and the time it can take to see a doctor or specialist.

It sucks getting old ... you all stay strong and healthy and keep the Ural rubber side down!
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Old 3 Aug 2018
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Crunch can come when you land back in the USA because then you will need decent cover for astronomical hospital and medical bills.
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Old 3 Aug 2018
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I go back and forth on the question of medical insurance. Over the past 7.5+ years of travel I've not had medical insurance for the majority of my travels though I admit I have been lucky enough that my injuries and illnesses were not major. At most, one night in the hospital.

Ignore catastrophic injuries for a moment. For routine health issues, I find medical insurance and medical care in the majority of the world has generally fallen into one of these two categories:
  1. Insurance with a low deductible covers a portion of the bill but is so expensive that medical care + insurance costs significantly more than the total medical bill with no insurance.
  2. Insurance with a high deductible does not cover anything because medical care is so inexpensive, even including hospital stays and surgery.
End result: For anything up to minor surgery, insurance costs me more money than it saves, though at times I might be flying to a different country for my medical care (which I have found often is a good idea). I have found the above to be true even in the EU, where I had surgery in Germany

This leaves the rare cases of major surgery on up through life changing catastrophic events. This is where the medical bills can add up fast in a way other people on this thread are describing. For these types of scenarios, I have seen that it is all too often insufficient to have only evacuation insurance with good after-care. Others in this thread (above) have given sufficient examples of how this can be problematic so I won't belabor the point further other than to say that my own experience confirms what they are saying.

All this has left me with a simple philosophy: while I continue to travel, I will never buy medical insurance for anything up through minor surgery. If I consider my risk of major injury is significant (such as in motorcycle travel), I will buy the highest deductible plan I can find with good evacuation coverage and after-care. This keeps my medical insurance costs to a few hundred dollars a year maximum and overall has saved me a lot of money. When I am not traveling on a motorcycle I often do not have any medical insurance at all.

msamsen, I see you live in the USA. You might look into HCC Atlas Travel Insurance. You can get a high deductible plan at a reasonable price that covers motorcycle travel, includes evacuation insurance and covers the costs incurred before you can evac as well as followup care afterwords.

Good luck and enjoy your travels!
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Old 3 Aug 2018
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Originally Posted by Tony LEE View Post
Crunch can come when you land back in the USA because then you will need decent cover for astronomical hospital and medical bills.
No, they have Medicare.

Last edited by markharf; 3 Aug 2018 at 09:07. Reason: Edited by moderator due to irrelevant rant about current American politics.
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Old 3 Aug 2018
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The topic of this thread, established by the OP, is the value of health insurance while traveling in Central and South America.

Anyone wishing to post screeds about current American political figures can feel free to do so elsewhere. Since I'm getting tired of saying the same old stuff over and over again, I'm considering doing what I'm actually supposed to do in response--which is issue infraction points which lead to temporary and/or permanent bans.

Note that this has nothing whatsoever to do with my own political opinions, of which I have many.

Thanks for your attention.

Increasingly dictatorial moderator Mark
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  #11  
Old 3 Aug 2018
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Quote:
Originally Posted by othalan View Post

msamsen, I see you live in the USA. You might look into HCC Atlas Travel Insurance. You can get a high deductible plan at a reasonable price that covers motorcycle travel, includes evacuation insurance and covers the costs incurred before you can evac as well as followup care afterwords.
Thanks!! It’s only the second company that I’ve found that will insure someone over 70 years old, though with a 250,000 USD benefit max. Better than nothing, for sure!!!!

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  #12  
Old 4 Aug 2018
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Regarding health insurance, I have the same philosophy as Othalan.

You buy insurance for major care/ major accidents. So you select the policy that has the highest deductable. This way you save a lot of money and you are still covered in case of a big accident.

Do you need insurance for central and south america? It is a personal decision about how much financial risk you are willing to accept. I did not take any. I only visited hospitals in Argentina and Brasil. It was almost free.
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Old 4 Aug 2018
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Regarding road safety, I have not seen your ural but It could be a good idea to add an additional headlight as much to right as possible on the side car to make it look like a car for on coming traffic. You'll reduce the risk of head on collision.


Patrick

Last edited by PatOnTrip; 4 Aug 2018 at 17:46.
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Old 5 Aug 2018
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Originally Posted by PatOnTrip View Post
Regarding road safety, I have not seen your ural but It could be a good idea to add an additional headlight as much to right as possible on the side car to make it look like a car for on coming traffic. You'll reduce the risk of head on collision.


Patrick
Thanks! Good suggestion.

It has both a spotlight and two fog lights on the sidecar, plus the bike headlamp, of course. They are all LED.

Mike
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  #15  
Old 5 Aug 2018
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If you want to do a bit more philosophy about travel insurance, here is the way is see this:

There are two types of travel insurances:

1) the passive travel insurance: the insurance policy that you will be buy

2 ) the active travel insurance: what you can do to avoid an accident/getting injuered. Here are a few items:
- driving behavior: it is obvious, no need to add more
- bike setup:
1) bike handling: set your bike suspension to handle well with the extra load when making a sudden move, rough roads, bumpy downhill,...
2)tire selections for road / offroad conditions and how often you replace them: As an example I met a guy in Africa who was happy to have a K60 front tire because they last. Then he had a crash offroad and now he needs knee surgery. Was it worth it to save paying for an extra front tire to cover the same mileage.
3) A steering damper: very usefull offroad. May save you from a crash that could end your trip.
4) etc...

The above list applies more to two wheels bikes. You got three wheels, you can't fall. I know nothing about Ural. I can't comment on how to set them.

You may already have one but I would recommend that you add a good steering damper. You shared your age above. Physical shape, endurance at 71yo is not the same as at 41yo. It is a fact of life and it is what it is. With the damper, the ural will be more stable, you'll feel less the impacts from the on/off road on the front wheel. The riding will be less tiring on you. As a consequence, you will be more alert, will be able to react faster to a situation and at the end of the day you will have more energy to enjoy your evening!

Steering dampers are not all the same, some dampens only away front the center, some dampens in both directions, some have more adjustability. Pick what is best for you.

Have a good trip,
Patrick
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