Easing drivers' access to healthcare

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This is the third in a four part series on truck driver health and wellness, and part of CCJ's What Drivers Want series. Other parts in the series are "Keeping drivers means offering more than health insurance coverage",  "Fleets' have a role in driver health and wellness", and and "Easing drivers' access to healthcare".

Treatment isn’t easy for drivers, whether that’s for sleep apnea, diabetes, heart problems and other health issues drivers are at an increased risk for.

“My health has become poor. When you drive a truck, you have a lot of difficulty taking off for doctor visits and revisits, labs, testing,” one driver commented in the most recent CCJ What Drivers Want survey. “We drivers just put off addressing our health concerns until it’s too late to stay healthy.”

But some organizations are working to address this widespread issue.

Interstate Health launched in November 2022 with the business proposition to develop health clinics adjacent to truck stops across the country to make access easier for drivers. The company also aims to place the clinics in more rural areas where healthcare is scarce to provide an additional layer of income. The company most recently opened a new clinic in Port Wentworth, Georgia, in addition to its clinic in Cookeville, Tennessee, and another in Racine, Wisconsin. The clinics provide urgent care, primary care and occupational health services to commercial drivers, community members and the many transport professionals who frequent the region.

You can download the full results of our What Drivers Want report here

Pertexa Healthcare Technologies is also working to make healthcare for drivers more accessible with its Remote Intelligent Telehealth Assistant (RITA) devices, which allow truckers – and really anyone on the road – to get 24/7 access to medical professionals and receive a consultation, medical prescription, vital signs check and wellness coaching in a short, live visit with a healthcare professional.

“We just brought the first three RITA devices back to the shop to be refurbished and updated with new software and equipment. The initial test with these three went better than hoped for, and now we are in production for the first 100,” said Truckers Health Network CEO Brian Hazelgren. “The RITA devices will be placed in truck stops, resorts, hotels and corporate campuses, and we already have locations set up. The network of 250 medical providers is in place, and they will begin taking calls again in January.”

But even with these additional services slowly coming available, drivers are still plagued with the expense of healthcare. As previously noted, paying bills each month was drivers’ top concern based on the CCJ report. That includes medical bills.

Resolve, a company that helps patients navigate complex medical bills and reduce or eliminate the amount they owe, has identified truckers as a primary target to market their services to because of the amount of medical debt they rack up, said Dawn Greene, an operations manager at Resolve.

“One report that the White House issued to PBS was that 13.5% of 270 million people have credit card debt, and of that debt, more than half of that is for medical bills,” Greene said. “They also went into that report to talk about how long-haul truck drivers are more likely to smoke, be overweight and are less likely to be physically active compared to other U.S. workers, which leads to an array of different medical conditions.”

And because they’re over the road, they’re often out of network if they are able to visit a doctor, making the cost that much more.

[RELATED: Trucking companies can help drivers lower health-related costs]

Greene advises drivers who pay for their own insurance and companies that are paying for their drivers’ insurance to consider policies that provide coverage across the U.S. There are policies like that out there, and they do cost more up front, but she said it’s better to pay the higher premium up front than pay the heavier expense on the back end.

Several insurers have begun offering more options specifically for drivers, as well. Expediter Services, for example, recently added an exclusive health insurance marketplace at ESHealthPlans.com for independent contractors, including contract drivers, owner-operators and fleet owners. The offering includes major medical coverage, short-term health plans, vision, dental, life insurance, telehealth plans and more to help improve members’ profitability and life on the road by offering coverage that meets their needs at an affordable price.

When the CCJ survey asked what would be the main reason you would consider driving for a different fleet, one driver responded, “Better health insurance for the family would be my No. 1 choice,” and another said, “they had better health insurance.”

“With our net income dropping and the rising prices of the cost of virtually everything, we are trapped in the driver seat ‘til death takes us, and because of driver health issues due to the harshness of the job, that could be sooner than later,” one driver commented.

Angel Coker Jones is a senior editor of Commercial Carrier Journal, covering the technology, safety and business segments. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and kayaking, horseback riding, foraging for medicinal plants and napping. She also enjoys traveling to new places to try local food, beer and wine. Reach her at [email protected].