With the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) the debate surrounding healthcare has exploded into the forefront of everyone’s mind. Questions such as “Will I lose my insurance?” and “How can this help or hurt my bottom line?” are frequently asked. For most, the changes from ACA will not affect your current situation but is never a bad idea to be prepared for changes to your policy or rates. The open enrollment on HealthCare.gov ends March 31st for 2014 and opens again in November for 2015. This is the period of time in which you can enroll in Qualified Health Plan service offered by the Affordable Care Act. More information can be found here.
So what does this mean for truckers?
Well, not a whole lot more than any other folks. Many trucking companies provide a healthcare plan already, and those that don’t, will be forced to cover their employees under the ACA if they are over 50 employees. Gordon Truck posted on their website that:
“As an employee, you may not be eligible for this tax-subsidized coverage because Gordon Trucking’s benefit plans exceed all of the requirements of the law for eligibility, comprehensive coverage, and cost of participation. While this does not mean that you or a family member could not buy insurance from an exchange, it does mean that you are unlikely to receive a subsidy because of your eligibility for our plan.”
Also, find out if your company has a wellness plan. Many large companies incentive their employees to lose weight or lower blood pressure by offering bonuses and perks. Sometimes they will offer free exercise classes and gym memberships to employees interested in improving their well-being.
If you are an owner operator, the state determined healthcare exchanges are where you will go to see if you qualify for a subsidized healthcare plan based on income, the state you live in, family size and disabilities. Some states have their own exchange independent of the one provided by the federal government. As an owner operator you best plan of action is to compare as many rates as you can and work on improving your health to avoid future expenses resulting from poor health such as: reduced work hours, medical bills and increased insurance rates. A good place to start is with being familiar with what it takes to keep in line with FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) standards for driver health. You must pass your medical screening to continue driving so knowing these health benchmarks is crucial to staying on the road. For help finding a certified medical examiner click here. The criterion for the exam are as follows:
- Vision – to check for visual impairments that would affect your ability to drive competently.
- Hearing – like vision, it is checked to make sure you can hear what you need to in order to operate your truck properly.
- Blood Pressure – high blood pressure can put you at a risk for heart-attack and stroke which could gravely endanger other drivers and yourself on the road.
- Cardiovascular – to check for circulation and extremity health.
- Respiratory – are you able to oxygenate your lungs appropriately. If not, you would be at risk for passing out at the wheel or becoming dizzy and fatigued.
- Neurological – to check for your ability to comprehend your surroundings and make decisions while driving.
- Musculoskeletal – if you have any physical impairments that make it difficult for you to operate a truck safely.
- Diabetes – unregulated diabetes can be lethal and affects almost every category mentioned. If you have diabetes make sure you are taking steps to regulate it.
- Psychological – can you handle the mental stresses of driving and will your mental condition put other drivers at risk.
- Drug Test – to test for illegal substances or medicines that could affect your driving ability.
In addition to mandatory testing, you should be visiting the doctor regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A great website for tips on living a healthy lifestyle is The Healthy Trucker. They have tips on exercise, eating healthy and budgeting for any over the road driver. All of these factors should be a part of your health regiment because staying healthy is the best way to save on medical costs. Most insurance policies will give allow for a copay or even free checkups so make sure to take advantage of those as well.
- Know your companies health insurance policies and wellness programs.
- For independent truckers: make sure you see if you qualify for a subsidized plan through the ACA open enrollment.
- Make sure you know the health requirements for the mandatory FMCSA medical screenings.
- Create a healthcare plan for yourself to stay healthy and on the road.