We have been incredibly fortunate in that none of the crew of Moonshadow have had any major health issues in sixteen years of cruising. Nonetheless, we believe strongly in health insurance, just in case.
Merima is a New Zealand citizen, and George an NZ resident, so we both have access to the country’s public health care system. This is fine when we are in New Zealand, but what happens if we need medical attention while we are away? First of all, we generally take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover us for the time we are abroad. The policy provides for unlimited medical and evacuation expenses while we’re traveling and costs about US $130 a month for the two of us.
Fortunately for us, we haven’t had many experiences with local health care in the countries we’ve visited. Reports from other cruisers are generally pretty good, with the exception of a few third-world countries where medicine men still use leeches to draw out evil spirits.
The only occasion that required urgent care was in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 1997, when George contracted a rather nasty case of food poisoning. Fortunately, there was a modern, American-owned clinic adjacent to the marina. A couple of hours connected to an “intravenous cocktail” did the trick. The treatment was of stateside quality, and carried stateside prices.
Most of our experiences have been with simple dental checkups. George visited a dentist in Puerto Vallarta, also in 1997, where he was treated by a very professional, American-educated dentist. A checkup and cleaning cost about $25. Fast forward to 2006 and we were both treated by the very professional staff of the Bangkok Hospital in Phuket, Thailand. We both had checkups and updated our course of vaccinations. Bangkok Hospital is a state-of-the art facility and draws “medical tourism” from around the world, where people receive low-cost elective and cosmetic surgery during their Thai holiday. They even have live music in the lobby while you wait to pay the bill.
We’re strong believers in maintenance and prevention. Merima, our medical officer, keeps the medical kit well stocked and up to date. Fortunately, many drugs that would require a prescription in the States are available over-the-counter overseas. For self-treatment of minor afflictions and ailments we refer to books like Medicine for Mountaineering, The Pill Book, and occasionally The Bartender’s Guide.