We may be stationed in places far from the shores of good ol’ USA, but we still have to take care of business. The nuts and bolts of life are sometimes more difficult to navigate from the other side of the world. One of those issues is health insurance. I must admit, I’ve always been a little bit confused by the finer points of health insurance plans, and the Affordable Care Act added another layer of complication, or so I thought.
So hubby is covered under the Foreign Service Benefit Plan (FSBP), but only himself, not me and the kids. As we know, many (most?) other countries have some form of national health service, and the Foreign Service presumes that the rest of the family will be covered by that. However, once you’ve gotten used to the (comparative) awesomeness of the American medical establishment, it’s hard to subject yourself to the whims of your current country’s national health care system. While I am not fond of the long waits for treatment and the lack of choice in practitioner, it is what it is, and everybody’s been fine so far.
But the kids and I spend a significant amount of time in the US every year, and I was not interested in us being uninsured while we are here. I did some research, and discovered that I could obtain the minimum essential health benefits coverage (MEC) through the Affordable Care Act. I was able to get us a “bronze” level policy that put my mind at ease; we can come to the US for a month to see my folks, and I don’t worry that we’d be financially wiped out if a kid broke an arm or got sick.
As you can imagine, it was challenging to research and enroll in Obamacare from halfway around the world! Like a lot of other people, I had trouble with the website at first, but dang if I was going to stay on hold for an hour waiting for a counselor to get to me, plus there was the time difference to work around. I kept trying the website and was finally able to do the research I needed, and to sign up. I haven’t been in the U.S. to use it yet, but I feel better just knowing it’s there! The rates were extremely reasonable.
One of those interesting-things-you-never-think-about is how different countries handle their health care. Our nomadic lives have given me an up-close-and-personal experience of it. In the Netherlands, they have a dual system: long-term treatments (like prolonged hospital stays and chronic disability costs like wheelchairs, etc.) are covered by a state-controlled mandatory insurance. For regular medical treatment, the everyday stuff, there is a system of obligatory health insurance, through private health insurance companies. These insurance companies offer packages with a defined set of insured treatments, so you can choose what is best for your family. While the health care system in the Netherlands has been highly rated in studies I have seen, I still prefer our system and our doctors.
I try not to regret what my kids are missing in the crazy, globe-trotting life we lead, but I am sorry that they won’t have the experience of having one pediatrician/general practitioner throughout their childhoods. I fondly remember my Dr. Martin!