Recurring chest pain and surprising discounts from our Healthcare Sharing Co-op

Hi, Girlfriends.

Before I start, let me say one thing. 

Honesty

These real-life medical stories are certainly not what I wanted to share with you in my blog, and I hope this post is the last installment! I much prefer to share cool RV life adventures with you, but real-life crap seems to be taking the spotlight recently. 

When I started this blog, I promised transparency and honest stories of life on the road.  This is easier said than done. As I watch words spill from my fingertips, it causes me to relive the pain of John’s recent health issues.   

But hey, if our health crisis management helps one of you prepare for a severe health situation, then it is worth it!

Three hospital visits in three months

You’ll recall John’s health issues entered our RV life in January. I titled part 1; We interrupt this RV lifestyle with a medical crisis…and 18 coping strategies

Next, John managed to squeeze in a car crash and a trip to the Trauma Unit for his second episode; Two Girlfriends, one car crash, and seven life lessons. Yes, I have a photo of the totaled car in the post.

As you recall in episode two, John ended up in the Trauma Unit after being T-boned in our friend’s car.   John’s scheduled heart catheterization was delayed by a week because he needed time to heal from the car accident. 

While his sore body healed, it was impossible for him to work.  Coincidentally, we had friends Beth and Randy scheduled to visit us from Philadelphia which proved to be a healthy distraction while we waited for his heart cath.    

Why didn’t Plavix work? 

Dr. Shaheen performed the heart catheterization the next Friday.  We learned that plaque had already begun to build around the stent placed in January.  The reasoning for this?  Some people don’t respond well to Plavix.  John is one of them.  Dr. Shaheen used a balloon technique to push the mushy plaque against the walls of the artery releasing it to flow freely again. 

John’s post-op instructions included a follow-up appointment in six months and a switch to a more expensive anti-coagulant called Brilinta. 

Cautious waiting

So now we wait.  We’ll feel better if John can make it passed a three-month time frame without any chest pain.  Instead of heading to the east coast to visit our sons for the summer, we are intentionally staying close to Tucson…just in case, John needs another catheterization.  Our temporary address for the summer? Venture In RV Resort, located in Show Low, Arizona.

Stumbling into early retirement

The past couple years we’ve been tossing around the idea of having John retire from working part-time each winter at The Voyager RV Resort. It’s not just his heart issue that accelerated the retirement discussion. Recently John’s arthritis has been flaring in his hands causing swollen joints and pain on days especially when he needs to do deep tissue work with his patients. Couple arthritis with a cardiac condition and it was a no-brainer to discuss retirement. Our focus began to shift away from the meaningless distractions of life in order to adopt a healthier perspective on our circumstances. We are optimistically looking forward to this next chapter of our life.

Paying for health care as fulltime RVers

We have been fulltime RVers for four years now.  The first year we had an insurance plan (with a massive deductible) through the state of Texas that covered us nationwide.  Three months into our fulltime experience Texas decided to cancel this program – forcing us to scramble for new coverage. 

Health Sharing alternatives

Friends of ours told about their health sharing network as we discussed our health coverage dilemma.  We did our research and the organization that best suited our needs was Christian Healthcare Ministries or CHM. 

Here is some information about this health sharing ministry;

  • Our monthly policy cost for both John and I = $300. 
  • We also pay an additional $40/quarter for another program which increases our coverage to 1 million per episode of health costs. 
  • CHM is made up of more than 400,000 members across the country. It has been in operation since 1981, is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity, and is a suitable option for individuals under the national healthcare law. Since it’s inception, members have shared more than $3.5 billion in one another’s healthcare costs.

How it works

Health-sharing networks ask members to negotiate a cash pay cost for health services upon check-in.  There is no need to be pre-qualified. 

When John was going to be admitted for his first heart catheterization, I called CHM to make sure I didn’t need to do anything else and to inform them of John’s impending procedure. 

The gal on the phone from CHM assured me all was well.  Luckily, Tucson Medical Center was familiar with CHM and took a small deposit of $400.  At this point, we didn’t know how much of a discount “cash pay” would be from the medical center, but keep reading to learn the surprising amount.

About three weeks after John’s procedure, we began receiving bills for the medical services. I made copies of all the invoices and sent them to CHM.  Just yesterday I received a check from CHM for the full amount of all the bills I submitted.  The turnaround time was about three months. 

Crazy discounts

You may want to brace yourself as you read this next section. 

Our average discount negotiated off the standard hospital charges was…68%!  We could have received an additional 20% off had we qualified with a certain annual low income, but we did not meet the requirements.  John’s Cardiologist gave a 30% discount; the lab work company offered a discount of 50%, the other three vendors gave discounts between 20-50%. 

Also, we were NOT required to pay our $500 deductible because any amount negotiated off the standard charges gets applied toward your deduction. 

Get this. The balances that we owe for all of the invoices from these three hospitalizations? ZERO. You heard me right. ZERO. And the reimbursement check from CHM comes with a thank you letter for participating in the health sharing network.

Other Health sharing networks

Are you under 65 and not eligible for Medicare?  Does our health sharing network sound crazy to you?  Would you like to review some of the significant health sharing networks out there?  Here are some links to help you become informed.    

Thanks for ready my blog and helping me work through the health issues we’ve experienced.  I hope you have learned a few things.  Let me know what was helpful, and please share stories from your own lives that might resonate with mine. 

Love,

Gretty

Related posts:

We interrupt this RV lifestyle with a medical crisis…and 18 coping strategies

Two Girlfriends, One car crash, and Seven life lessons

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Two Girlfriends, One Car crash, and Seven life lessons

Hi, Girlfriends.

Car crashes are NEVER good. 

Especially when your husband totals your girlfriends’ car.

I promise to tell the crash story (a.k.a. Part 2), but first, read Part 1 because it’s directly related to Part 2.

Oh, and then plan to read the finale, Part 3, to learn about John’s second cardiac event.

You’ll understand why I haven’t posted for six weeks!

March chest pain and my Girlfriend visit

It was a lovely Saturday morning on March 30th as John, and I began traipsing up Soldier Trail for a hike.  You’ll recall two months earlier we had unsuccessfully completed this trail because John had chest pain that led to his first cardiac stent.

Guess what. The chest pain happened again!

John placed a nitroglycerine tablet under his tongue- which erased the pain.

We turned around to go home, knowing a trip back to the Cardiologist was in order.  Since it was Saturday, John planned to call for an appointment on Monday. 

Coincidentally, my girlfriend Laurie was arriving in Phoenix from Wisconsin the very next day.  I planned to drive up from Tucson, pick her up at her hotel, and enjoy a girl’s road trip to the Grand Canyon.   

John assured me that he’d be fine almost pushing me out the RV door for my it’s-been-too-long-since-my-last-girlfriend-get-together-and-need-not-worry-about-John’s-health.

Northern Arizona Fun

Laurie and I reunited at her Phoenix hotel the next morning filling the parking lot with warm hugs and giggling.  I drove us north through Saguaro Cacti covered hills leading to our lunch destination “The Haunted Hamburger” in quirky Jerome, Arizona.   

Two hours later it was delightful hearing Laurie ooh and aah at the red rocks of Sedona.  Next, we passed Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff squinting at the bright snow cap.  Perfect timing brought us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon just as the sun was setting.  After dinner, we retired to our hotel room for conversation and more giggles.

Girlfriends who care

I was having such fun sharing the beauty of Arizona with Laurie that I almost forgot about John’s chest pain the day before.

That night I updated Laurie with John’s health scare.  She offered huge listening ears to my babbling words.  Being able to speak of the scariness to my girlfriend seemed to loosen the grip that fears placed around my heart. 

Intoxicating vistas and dirty hiking boots   

The next day Laurie and I awoke excited to experience the Canyon on a hike.  Before heading down the South Kaibab Trail, we packed snacks into our backpacks, filled our camelbacks with water, and grabbed our hiking poles. 

Again, it was exhilarating to witness Laurie’s joy as we descended from the ridgeline taking in the dramatic panorama of this natural wonder.  Our 3.5-mile hike to our lunch spot and turnaround whetted Laurie’s appetite for the Canyon. 

Heading towards the Crash

Laurie and I had Tuesday morning to hike a bit of the South Rim, meet an adorable Sheepadoodle, and enjoy the vistas before heading back to Tucson. 

On our drive, my cell phone rang around 3 p.m., and it was John.  I began to share on speaker phone about our awesome trip when he interrupted me. 

“I’m in the Trauma Unit of Banner Hospital.  I had a car accident with Kathi’s car, and I think I totaled it.” 

I responded…. “WHAT?”

I took a sideways glance at Laurie’s stunned face which confirmed what we just heard. 

He told us what happened, but all I remember is “Big black truck,” “blind spot,” “T-Boned,” “Neck pain,” “CT Scan,” “concussion,” “no brain bleed,” “discharged today.” 

The Totaled Car

Here is a photo of what used to be Kathi’s car.

Crisis Mode kicks in

Laurie asked me “Do you want me to drive?  Do you want to pull over for a while?”  My response was no.  My M.O. is always the same when a crisis arises.  (Probably from my nurse’s training).  I stay calm, focused, and begin doing mental checklists and triage to move towards solving the problem at hand.  I’d be fine to drive. 

(Truth be told, it’s 3 or 4 days later when I fall apart.)

2nd Time to this Trauma Unit in 3 months

Laurie and I drove straight to Banner Medical Center’s Trauma Unit.  It was Deja-vu.  Just three months earlier I was with my friend Kathi (yes, whose car John crashed!) in the same Trauma Unit after her biking accident and head injury. 

Luckily John had no broken bones, a few skin lacerations, and would certainly be sore for days.  The airbags had done their job protecting (perhaps saving?) his life!

Laurie Ubered it to her hotel from the hospital as I went in to attend to John. 

How to tell Kathi?! 

Honestly, this was the most stressful situation knowing that John was responsible for destroying our friends’ car! 

Before I arrived at the Trauma Unit, John left a voice mail with Kathi for her to call him.  She had been out with friends all day, and John was also supposed to be watching her cat, Lilac.

I too called Kathi’s cell phone, but she did not answer.  I left a general “hey, as soon as you get this message give me a call.”  My memory is a bit blurred, but around 5 or 6 Kathi did call us back telling us she and her friends were heading home. 

I was so grateful that she was not alone and had her best friends with her when she got the bad news. When we got home to the RV Kathi and her friends greeted us with nothing but concern and love. 

Fast Forward

I’m going to end this story now because the next two weeks were basically full of the post-trauma stuff you must do after accidents.  There was lots of contacting insurance companies, mixed with watching John’s deep bruising appear, whispering heartfelt apologies over and over to Kathi, and hourly thanking God that John was not seriously injured or dead! 

Ending on the positive

Here are some truths that I’ve walked away with from this car crash story.  These are gifts from my two girlfriends that I’d like to share with the world.  I am forever grateful for their maturity and friendship.

  1. Being on the receiving end of Kathi’s grace was humbling.  She could have been derogatory, scolding, belittling, tossing contempt our way, slamming John’s reputation, or gossiping about us.  Instead?  Her concern ran deep and wide as she continued to check on John and saying things like “cars can be replaced, people cannot.”  Thank you, Kathi.
  2. Shared misfortune can deepen friendships.  The car accident necessitated having some conversations about health and finances that you usually don’t have with your RV’ing buddies. Kathi and I had also enriched our relationship a few months back as we processed her bike accident and some other health issues.  We have a new special bond.
  3. Humor and forgiveness are priceless.  Kathi’s first words upon hearing about the accident were “Well, I didn’t want to pay for new tires on that car anyway!”.  This comment was a balm to our devastated ears and hearts.  We kept repeating how sorry we were, and “please forgive John” for this accident.  She accepted our sorrow and replaced it with forgiveness.  One sure way to strengthen a friendship is to be supportive- even when it hurts. 
  4. Healthy communication decreases stress.  To avoid the rumor mill going amok at our RV resort, Kathi offered to communicate to our peeps through email and face to face with friends. She could have turned it into a gossip mess or worse yet, internalized her anger, frustrations, and fears and stressed her body.
  5. Authenticity trumps platitudes.  Kathi and I had to practice real-life discussions on insurance claims and legal stuff which is entirely mentally draining.  I was honored how she walked toward the dialogue, not backing down.  At times it felt like we were unwrapping trauma bandages but luckily only to reveal the healing wounds underneath.  The good news?  She got a new car in the process, and all the insurance stuff is a thing of the past.
  6. I’ve lost all faith in coincidences. Laurie’s trip to Arizona was perfectly timed and medicinal for me.  Additionally, we had my friends Beth and Randy coming the week before John’s second heart cath.  Again, the timing of these friends’ visits proved helpful in distracting our stress from the moment.   My advice to my readers is to trust your gut when spontaneous travel plans arise.  There are going to be undeniable blessings that come out of it. 
  7. Seeing gifts in painful moments.  As Laurie and I received the news about John’s accident and continued our drive towards the hospital, I glimpsed her quietly clasping her hands together and just being still.  I knew she was praying for me right at the moment.  As I witnessed this gift that only she could give it brought tears to my eyes and strength to my resolve.

Your Turn

  • Have you been in a traumatic situation like this one? Who can you identify with?  Kathi? John? Laurie? Or me?
  • Is there someone who needs your forgiveness for a mistake they made?
  • Have you been able to verbalize your fears, frustrations, failures lately? 
  • Who would you be if you took out that one stressor away that clogs your brain?
  • Who is that friend or family member who you can go to in times of stress?

Whew!  We’re not done yet, Girlfriends and Guy friends.  There is one last (I hope!) chapter to this saga. 

Click here for part 3 of John’s second cardiac procedure and how much it cost!  Plus, you’ll learn about our health sharing co-op that we are a part of. 

Click here if you haven’t read part 1; John’s first cardiac event.

Click here to read about Kathi’s traumatic bike accident.   

Click here if you need a good laugh about our dog, Penny.  She promises to write another post from a dog’s perspective of life on the road- now that Johnny is done having cardiac events.

Love,

Gretty