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High-risk pool or .... Canada ???
Old 06-14-2007, 10:41 AM   #1
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High-risk pool or .... Canada ???

I'm helping my mother research her retirement and health coverage options and wanted to post a long list of questions regarding immigration to Canada for health care reasons, but figured it's probably best to learn more about high-risk pool options... Really appreciate any advice you can provide on all this!

Her situation: 60 year old, widow, lives and works in Michigan (no high-risk pool there), has modest savings that along with SS should allow her to retire -- but health costs is a big question mark. Her reasonably safe withdrawals + SS would probably provide around $30K/yr before taxes. Health history: type II diabetes and two occurrences of breast cancer (10 years ago and just last month) -- early detection and mastectomies in both cases, no chemo or radiation.

I am prety sure her health history would be enough to preclude any private health insurance so if/when she leaves work and the 18-month of COBRA run out she would need some way to gap the 2-3 years till Medicare kicks in. She is considering trying to immigrate to Canada (she appears to be eligible under "Skilled Worker" program thanks to some family already there) or move to a state with a high-risk health insurance pool and use that.

I looked at the high risk pool rates in my state (TX) and it would probably cost her about $1200/month for the premiums plus out-of-pocket health care costs, leaving her around $15K/year to live on. That is not much, but she can probably make it and I can help as needed. Once she hits 65 health care costs would hopefully decline thanks to Medicare.

So I guess my question is does it make sense to consider the Canada option for health care reasons or are COBRA/high-risk pool costs for 3-4 years till Medicare kicks in reasonable enough? A follow-up question is whether Medicare is likely to provide enough coverage considering her health history and relatively high likelyhood of cancer returning at some point in the future?

I know this is fairly open-ended and subjective, but any input is greatly appreciated.
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Old 06-14-2007, 10:53 AM   #2
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Have you looked into the rules for immigration to Canada? Is this a viable option for her? I understand the bar is set very high and unless she has some connection or other special circumstance, it may not be realistic to consider this as a possibility.
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:40 AM   #3
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Have you looked into the rules for immigration to Canada? Is this a viable option for her? I understand the bar is set very high and unless she has some connection or other special circumstance, it may not be realistic to consider this as a possibility.
Yes, I have looked into that. She scores 67 on the "Skilled Worker" self-assesment test (CIC Canada | Skilled Workers and Professionals: Self-Assessment Test) which is right at the cut-off for being allowed in (she is a research chemist and has some family in Canada). So she at least has a chance of being allowed in, I think, though I don't know whether her age and/or medical history will override the passing 67 score. We just want to better understand her options in the US, before starting to look more seriously at Canada.
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Old 06-14-2007, 11:45 AM   #4
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She'd probably have to have a job lined up in canada or speak fluent french to get in at her age. Has she taken the test here? Immigrating to Canada

They're really, really picky about people over the age of 50. Having family there helps. Having a spouse that has worked or gone to school there also helps.

Edit: Whoops, posted after you did, see you already took the assessment test.
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Old 06-14-2007, 01:22 PM   #5
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Don't know anything about Canada, but look at the guide for Michigan health insurance at Health Insurance Consumer Guides. Even though Michigan doesn't have a risk pool it does require BCBS to sell her a policy and may require HMOs to provide her a policy if she is HIPAA eligible (coming off of her group plan from her employment).

I don't know the cost and you would have to look further at cost.
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Old 06-14-2007, 01:46 PM   #6
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I cant speak for Michigan, but the high risk and hippa rates for decent policies around here in california are in the 1200-1400 a month range.


Pretty dang expensive.
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Old 06-14-2007, 01:56 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
Have you looked into the rules for immigration to Canada? Is this a viable option for her? I understand the bar is set very high and unless she has some connection or other special circumstance, it may not be realistic to consider this as a possibility.
Does your mother have a skill that's in demand? Does she have family members here who can sponsor her? If not, does she fit the Investor criteria?
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Immigrating to Canada
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Old 06-15-2007, 09:21 AM   #8
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Martha, thank you for pointing me to that website! It seems almost too good to be true:

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, by law, must sell individual health insurance to any resident"

and

"Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will not charge you higher premiums because of your health status"

On BCBS site it looks like she can get a $2500 deductible/$5000 out-of-pocket max plan for about $230/month. This seems to be a much much better deal than any high-risk pool. I guess I'm still looking for the catch . If there's no catch, then it seems a no-brainer for her to just stay in MI and get BCBS. Thanks again
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Old 06-15-2007, 09:31 AM   #9
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If there's no catch, then it seems a no-brainer for her to just stay in MI and get BCBS. Thanks again
I suspect the catch will be BCBS will exclude coverage for anything related to her cancer or other pre existing conditions...
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Old 06-15-2007, 11:50 AM   #10
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Wahoo, if she is HIPAA eligible they can't exclude the pre-existing conditions.

I would call BCBS though and talk to them about the application process and cost.
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Old 06-15-2007, 11:58 AM   #11
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Thanks again; we'll follow up with BCBS
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Old 06-15-2007, 12:09 PM   #12
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Wahoo, if she is HIPAA eligible they can't exclude the pre-existing conditions.
My failure to note HIPAA eligibility must be a side effect of my prolonged exposure to chigger toxins. I fear I'm coming down with TIS (Toxic Itch Syndrome).
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Old 06-15-2007, 12:10 PM   #13
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Yes, I have looked into that. She scores 67 on the "Skilled Worker" self-assesment test (CIC Canada | Skilled Workers and Professionals: Self-Assessment Test) which is right at the cut-off for being allowed in (she is a research chemist and has some family in Canada). So she at least has a chance of being allowed in, I think, though I don't know whether her age and/or medical history will override the passing 67 score. We just want to better understand her options in the US, before starting to look more seriously at Canada.
She'll have a tougher time getting in because of her age. Does she plan on becoming a permanent resident of Canada? If so, she'll have to take a medical exam so her past medical history may be an issue. My husband (American) had to go through a medical exam, background checks with the police department (just to name a couple of things) in order to become a permanent resident.
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Old 06-15-2007, 07:09 PM   #14
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She'll have a tougher time getting in because of her age. Does she plan on becoming a permanent resident of Canada? If so, she'll have to take a medical exam so her past medical history may be an issue. My husband (American) had to go through a medical exam, background checks with the police department (just to name a couple of things) in order to become a permanent resident.
Never mind, Calgary Girl....looks like Mrs. Fluffy will be staying in Michigan, thanks to Martha's excellent information. Once again, the Board demonstrates its value!
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