In addition to applying for your no-fee passport and visa, after accepting a Peace Corps invitation you must obtain Final Medical Clearance. As early as 6 months before your departure date, the Office of Medical Services will load a bunch of tasks to your medical portal. You have until 2 months before your departure to complete all these tasks, so they strongly recommend that you make your appointments as soon as the tasks become available.
Now, depending on whether you have medical insurance (and even if you do, depending on what exactly your insurance will cover), the costs can add up quickly. Peace Corps does reimburse you a certain amount, so be sure to keep all the itemized bills and proof of payment to send in for your reimbursement. The maximum cost-share allowance for the physical examination differs by age and gender (because of the additional tests and screenings required for some of these groups):
- Females under age 40: $165
- Females age 40 or older: $290
- Males under age 40: $125
- Males age 40 or older: $175
The cost-share allowance for the dental exam and x-rays is $60, and for those who need corrective lenses, the cost-share allowance for visiting the eye doctor is $12.
If you don’t have dental insurance (or, if you’re like me and got kicked off your parents’ dental insurance plan right after getting your invitation because you turned 24 that year) I have great news! Certain Fellows of the International College of Dentists have amazingly offered to provide dental exams and x-rays to Peace Corps applicants at no charge! As in FREE!!! Just follow this link http://www.usa-icd.org/projects/peace-corps/, click on your state, and search for a dentist in your area. Now, obviously some states will have more Fellows offering this service than others, so I can’t guarantee that there will be one near you. There are over 50 here in Georgia, and one of them was conveniently less than 15 minutes away from my home, but if you live somewhere like Arkansas, you only have 4 dentists to choose from, and if you don’t happen to live anywhere near any of them, tough.
If one of these dentists is convenient to you, call their office and mention that you’re a Peace Corps applicant who saw online that Dr. So-and-so does free dental exams for Peace Corps applicants. If the receptionist is anything like the one I talked to, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about, ask all the other receptionists and hygienists in the office, and finally just go to the dentist him/herself to confirm that it’s true (I guess there aren’t many Peace Corps applicants in my area…). Once you set up your appointment, just be sure to bring all the necessary Peace Corps dental paperwork with you to the appointment. And try to get your x-rays in digital format so you don’t have to spend $15 shipping the films to the Peace Corps headquarters (but seeing as how I was getting this all done for free, I did not want to ask the dentist to give me digital copies after he handed me the film x-rays). And then be sure to thank the dentist profusely for everything!
You’ll also need to schedule a physical exam and get a ton of lab work and probably some vaccinations as well. Luckily, most insurance plans do allow you to get an annual physical for FREE! So unless you’ve already used up your year’s physical exam, this should be pretty easy to set up, and you can likely get everything done at once. When you schedule your appointment, be sure to tell them which immunizations you’ll need (for example, I needed boosters of polio and tetanus/diphtheria) as some doctor’s offices don’t carry all vaccinations and you may need to visit a travel clinic for some of them. Some insurance plans may cover these immunizations as they’re considered “preventative,” but others won’t, so you may want to call your insurance company first to find out what they cover. You’ll need to get a TON of blood work done and get a TB test, but it’s all on the Peace Corps physical exam form, so just give the whole thing to the doctor so that he/she knows what you need. And again, insurance companies will differ on whether (or how much) they cover these tests; the lab work ended up being the most expensive part of my exam. And finally, make sure the doctor fills out everything on the forms! Make sure they sign everywhere it asks them to sign and they check every box that needs to be checked. Get copies of all your lab results and proof of immunization for all the vaccinations, as you will need to upload these to your medical portal.
For the vision-impaired among us, you will also need to visit an eye doctor to get an up-to-date prescription for eyeglasses. The Peace Corps strongly discourages volunteers from wearing contact lenses while serving, as the hygienic conditions of most Peace Corps posts make it difficult to properly clean and store contact lenses and raises the risk of infections. Some volunteers use the daily disposable contact lenses to get around this issue, but of course none of those lenses come in my particular prescription. So, unfortunately for me, I’ll have to give up my precious contacts for a couple years and am in the process of finding some cute glasses that I won’t mind wearing everyday. But holy crap are glasses expensive when you have a super strong prescription like mine!