Medicine on the run

| October 05, 2005

“Find out how your coverage defines an emergency situation,” Widmer says. “It’s absolutely necessary to know what’s covered and what’s not.” She says if you can’t find out on your own, ask. “Drivers should ask for a benefits summary during orientation or something where they can see an outline of the benefits plan.”

Fedin agrees that it’s crucial for drivers to learn about their health care coverage. “I would say that truck drivers should become extremely familiar with their coverage because with insurance there can be a lot of fine print,” she says.

Knowing your insurance coverage inside and out won’t prevent injuries. When they happen, knowing where to get treatment is more important. Dedicated drivers who run the same routes might know where the nearest hospital or clinic is. For over-the road drivers, finding medical treatment is not much more difficult.

For example, health care professionals are opening up shop in more truckstops. “We’re seeing more and more truckstops that are starting to have some form of medical care at their locations,” says Mindy Long, spokeswoman for the National Association of Truck Stop Operators. “We’re also getting more calls from drivers looking for lists of places.”

Some truckstop-based health care is already in place and has been for years. “If it’s a terminal location, then we try and have medical help there,” says Ron Brown, manager of SLC Sapp Brothers. “We have it at Council Bluff, Denver and Salt Lake City, and we’re looking at Indianapolis and some other locations.”

The idea is to make it as easy as possible for drivers to get medical treatment. This means plenty of big-rig parking, no appointment necessary, speedy care, accepting all insurance and in some cases even filing claims for the drivers.

“We take all insurance, and we do all the billing to the insurance company for the drivers,” says Breeze of Over-the-Road Dental. “All they’re required to pay is the co-payment, and we collect the balance from the insurance company for them.” She says OTR Dental’s owner, Dr. Scott Wall, used to be a trucker. “He knew that drivers are far from home and never have time for dental care, and the drivers usually have very good benefits.”

OTR Dental’s service is structured with the driver in mind. “They don’t have time for crowns, bridges and root canals,” Breeze says. “Most of the time they’re here to take care of a toothache and get back on the road.” She says drivers often choose an extraction rather than other sore-tooth treatments that cost a lot more and take a lot longer.

Business is good at OTR Dental, and now three dentists are on staff.

Dr. Seals provides chiropractic treatment, DOT physicals and drug tests. “The key thing is these guys have to be able to drive a full-sized rig in and park it: someplace they can get to without having to bobtail,” Seals says. He says a basic chiropractic adjustment takes “20 or 25 minutes” and costs $45.

“We see pretty much neck, shoulder and back problems,” he says, adding that sore left shoulders and upper backs are “chronic” among drivers. Some need further medical attention “like a strep throat,” Seals says. “For that we have a relationship with a hospital five blocks away.” He says drivers can come in for a blood pressure check or a quick, 10-minute massage free of charge.

“Drivers get disrespected everywhere,” Seals says. “Somebody has to respect them, and I’ve yet to find anybody who’s disappointed in the services we provide.”

His DOT physicals are $65 and include a laminated medical card “because it’s going to get sat on a million times,” he says. A random DOT drug test is $45. “That’s usually with a 24-hour turnaround,” he says.

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