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Ah, healthcare. This is probably my least favorite subject to talk about. It invites so much controversy, confusion, and rip-your-hair-out hassle. Not to mention finding healthcare for RVers is ten times more complicated.
We’ve been RVing for years and have tried quite a few options for coverage on the road. We’ve actually used something different every year because we have not been happy with our options.
When you’re rarely in your home state or domicile state, it’s hard to find healthcare coverage that will take care of you when you’re off exploring Denali National Park.
Let me start off by saying that there is no good solution in the States. Mostly because healthcare as a whole is a total mess if you don’t get insurance through your employer. Since many RVers are self-employed or retired, this makes healthcare extra difficult, but you do have options.
In this blog post, I’ll talk about our own experience with insurance on the road.
Note: I’m no expert in healthcare for RVers because let’s be real, the rules change too much for anyone to be an expert. This blog post is purely our own experience. If you’re looking for medical advice, you’ve come to the wrong place.
2014: Obamacare/Affordable Care Act
Before Heath and I were married in 2014, I was on Obamacare and Heath was on his parent’s insurance plan. (It’s worth noting that after we were married, Heath stayed on his parent’s insurance plan until his 26th birthday.)
At the time, I was paying $4.87/month for health coverage with Blue Cross Blue Shield. I had a terrible catastrophic plan with a super high deductible.
This was while we filmed Hourly America, which you can watch for free here, and we were making little money our first year on the road (see our total income here). Since our only income was through sponsorship and it took until October before we started finding freelance clients on the road, paying $5 for health insurance was about all we could afford. We never used our plan.
2015: No Healthcare
Despite making very little our first year on the road—I’m talking less than $15,000—we did not qualify for Affordable Healthcare in 2015. I imagine this was mostly because we are self-employed. Since we didn’t receive any government subsidies and because our business was just getting started, we couldn’t afford health insurance to shell out $200/month or more for health insurance, period.
All of the plans we looked at were over $200 to insure just me. Heath was still on his parents’ plan.
At 24 and self-employed, there was no chance we could afford that.
Choosing to not sign up for healthcare was a huge point of stress for us, but financially it was our only option.
Since we were young and in good health, we felt dropping our coverage wasn’t too big a risk.
We did have to pay the 1% of our income penalty for not having insurance, but this was still significantly less than how much it would’ve cost to insure me for the year.
2016: RVers Insurance
In 2016 we signed up for my health insurance through RVers Insurance Exchange.
We found RVerinsurance.com through the recommendation of Cherie and Chris over at Technomadia.
Signing up with RVer Insurance was a little complicated and confusing, but offered a lot of peace of mind since they specialize in finding health insurance coverage for RVers. Up until this point, we were researching health plans ourselves and it was overwhelming to say the least.
We called and talked to Colleen, explained our situation, and told her what we were looking for. We filled out some forms—which we had to print out, fill out by hand, and then fax back to them like it’s 1987. She called us back the next day with multiple options.
Colleen found me a plan that would cover me across all of America with Scott and White Health Plan. It was a whopping $265 a month for just me. Talk about a kick to the gut. And that was the cheapest plan available for me.
I argued with Heath that we couldn’t afford that, however, he (and everyone who knew I wasn’t covered in 2015) insisted that I get healthcare in 2016, so I did. Never used it once, but paid a pretty penny for it.
If you’re looking for traditional health insurance, I highly recommend going through the agents at RVer Insurance so you can be sure you’re finding a plan that will allow you to access healthcare wherever you are traveling. They also offer many options for telemedicine, which can be a great option if you can’t find a provider in your area.
2017-2019: Liberty Healthshare
In 2017 we signed up for Liberty Healthshare as our healthcare provider.
Liberty Healthshare isn’t health insurance, it’s a health care sharing ministry.
If you haven’t heard of healthsharing, let me explain what it is.
“A health care sharing ministry is an organization that facilitates the sharing of health care costs among individual members, in the United States, who have common ethical or religious beliefs.” (Wikipedia)
If your first thought is “Huh?” let me put it in layman’s terms. Instead of paying an insurance company each month, you pay other people’s medical bills. And when you make a claim, instead of insurance paying the claim, other people in your healthsharing community pay for your bills.
This means a few things:
- You’re working with a 501(c)3 non-profit, not an insurance company.
- You can actually see where your money is going, because it goes toward individuals. (Liberty automatically charges my credit card each month, but online I can see that last month our money went to David & Elizabeth.)
- You don’t have to worry about finding a specific provider when looking for care.
- It’s significantly cheaper than insurance.
- It is exempt under ACA requirements, so you do not have to pay a penalty.
I would’ve been skeptical about joining a healthshare ministry, but before signing up we talked to several people who have used healthsharing and raved about it (including my parents). My parents, fellow entrepreneurs, joined Samaritan Ministries after the Affordable Healthcare Act passed, making traditional healthcare unaffordable for them. This is a pain point for many of our self-employed friends. My family has claimed several procedures and doctors visits over the years and have had nothing but good things to say.
We would’ve joined Samaritan years ago, however, you are required to have a pastor’s signature and sign a statement of faith. It’s hard to have a “home church” when you’re never in a place longer than a month, so we were unable to join. (Remember the foundation of healthsharing is that you share medical costs with a group of individuals with common ethical or religious beliefs.)
So we chose Liberty Healthshare (on the recommendation of Michelle from Making Sense of Cents). Liberty is religiously affiliated like all healthsharing organizations but does not require you to be actively religious.
Liberty Healthshare has an affiliate program (you earn $100 for every person you refer) so I tweeted at Michelle and she sent Liberty my phone number and email address.
They called me (the call was less than three minutes), emailed over a few forms I could fill out online, and we were done!
100% of eligible medicals bills will be covered, up to $1,000,000. Since our average spend on doctor visits in our marriage was exactly $0, we figured that sounded like a pretty good deal.
Then in late 2018, I got pregnant. (Yay for us, uh oh for Liberty.)
We were assured that not only would everything pregnancy-related be covered, but that we would be repaid for all medical costs within 30 days. Yep, we would pay for everything out of pocket unless we could find a doctor who accepted Liberty already (we couldn’t).
And so we started paying thousands of dollars to my OBGYN (at the self-pay discount) and submitting them to Liberty, but we weren’t getting any checks in the mail. Then 2019 hit and our monthly fees were raised as well as our AUA (annual unshared amount, which basically means deductible). Annoying. When we called them on the phone since we hadn’t received any checks yet, they said they reimbursed after 30 business days.
Hm. Okay, weird, but whatever.
Then we called a month later and they said they were months behind, but don’t worry you’ll be reimbursed.
Suddenly I’m nine months pregnant and we haven’t been reimbursed for anything and I’m about to charge a c-section to my credit card. They say on the phone that they are four months behind in payments, but congrats on the baby!
At this point, Heath and I know we need to switch to someone else, but I’m about to have a baby and it’s the middle of the year and I’m pretty sure that is the worst possible time to try to switch health insurance. Not to mention that whole unncessary rule that you can only change your insurance at certain times of the year.
And so I end up charging close to $10,000 (again with the self-pay discount) for surgery, anesthesia, pediatrician, hospital stay, etc.
My daughter was born in May and it is now December and we’ve seen $0. Liberty is now saying on the phone that they “have no timeline” on when they will be paying us. Basically they don’t have the money to pay anyone.
We are in a tough spot.
For over a year, we recommended Liberty because we had good experiences with them…because we didn’t actually have any medical bills. Now, I have this horrible feeling in my gut knowing that I could’ve put other people in this same situation where you’re out thousands of dollars and you’re pretty sure you’ll never see a cent of it again. We have it in writing from Liberty that we will be reimbursed even though we are leaving them, but we will see. Maybe we will be reimbursed before Ellie graduates high school. (It’s 2023…we’ve still never seen a cent.)
If you use Liberty Healthshare currently, I would recommend switching.
If you signed up for Liberty because we recommended it to you in the past, I am so sorry for recommending them to you.
I recommend these articles for other ideas on healthcare solutions for RVers:
- Healthcare & Health Insurance for Full Time RVers by Technomadia
- Finally Insured! Our Simple, Affordable RV Healthcare by Gone with the Wynn’s
- Health Insurance Challenge: Coverage for Full-Time RVers, An in-depth look on WinnebagoLife
Now if you’re not American, you have much better options (or if you are American but want to RV abroad like we love to do!).
Finding coverage across the globe from an insurance company you can trust is extremely difficult right now, but I think (I hope!) that we just found an awesome solution in a company called Safety Wing.
With a tagline of “Insurance for nomads, by nomads” Safety Wing was created by travelers who understand how much it truly sucks to find health insurance that works. Here’s their mission:
People who are location independent fall between the cracks, without proper access to insurance or national safety nets. We know this because we are nomads ourselves.
To solve this, we are building a global social safety net tailored to the needs of online freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote companies. We’re starting with travel + medical, then adding comprehensive health insurance to our offering before moving on to disability and pension.
We will keep adding products until we have a complete social safety net – fully functioning across borders.
Right now they have three products including Nomad Insurance and Remote Health (learn more here).
The main difference between SafetyWing Nomad Insurance and Remote Health for individuals:
- Nomad Insurance is a travel medical insurance and was built for Digital Nomads who have health insurance coverage in their home country but need coverage abroad while traveling.
- Remote Health is comprehensive health insurance for traveling nomads and remote workers AND also for people who still stay in one spot as ex-pats or are in their home country. This is your classic insurance—other than that it cost an actual arm and a leg. It will cover you in most countries worldwide too.
Right now, Remote Health is the best option we’ve seen for global RV entrepreneurs like ourselves. They also have a remote health for businesses option, so if you’re running a company with employees and want to offer healthcare as an employee benefit, they have affordable options for that too.
Now like I said, we have been burned before by other health insurance companies (I think everyone has at this point) so I’m not going to say with 100% confidence that this is the best insurance possible and you will be endlessly happy and healthy for choosing it. But I do think it’s one of the top options out there for digital nomads right now.
You may have more questions than answers after reading this post (that’s healthcare for ya), but I hope our experiences have shed some light and shown you some options. For Americans, RVerinsurance is a great place to start looking for coverage. For anyone abroad, Safety Wing has great options.
There is no deductible with Liberty?
I have Liberty right now and pay $135/month for just me and have a $500 deductible.. which was WAY lower than any other plan I’ve found. So far though I’ve been completely covered for my yearly doc appt and haven’t had to pay any kind of deductible.
Do they also cover perscriptions
We signed up with Liberty as a couple and we have a $1,000 “deductible” although they call it “annual unshared amount”, much better than the $6,000 deductible we had before.
The best place to learn more about the plans they offer is on their website: https://www.libertyhealthshare.org/3-program-options
LOVE Liberty! I turned 26 in November and was really nervous about my options since we’re also self-employed. Liberty was by far the easiest + most affordable to join. I’m so happy to hear the coverage will still work for us as we start RVing full time this fall! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
That’s awesome! I’m glad to hear y’all are liking it as well!
Yes! Good to hear others who are doing this! 🙂
Great post. I would love to have a $265/mo insurance premium! lol After hubby changed jobs and the cheapest health “insurance” we could find was $1,000/mo for the both of us (for a VERY high deductible plan) although we RARELY go to the doctor (we are in our mid-50s), we too just signed up with Liberty Healthshare. The “Affordable Care Act” is no longer affordable and for people who have very little need for doctors (except once a year and the occasionally injury or serious illness), this appears to be a good option. We are giving it a try now so we will be able to have coverage when we hit the road full-time in 18 months. I have already called local physicians to get prices. I’ve always been a “shopper” (finding the best deals) so this puts healthcare costs in MY hands for a change! Good luck to both of us!
Wow $1000 a month is crazy! We too have had a lot of trouble finding afforable care that is actually affordable. Best of luck as you’re shopping around!
Thanks, Alyssa. We signed up with Liberty last month. I refuse to pay $12,000 a year for “just in case” coverage that will still cost us another $6,000!!! #notaffordablecareact
We’re in the same boat Tina. ~$1000 a month for our family of four. This gets us a high deductible plan that we can’t use for routine visits. We have it for catastrophic events, but pay out of pocket for any routine visits such as the kids’ checkups or our annual physicals. So the $1000 a month is only the beginning. We looked into Liberty last year. We may go with them when we move to full time RVers in the fall.
Yea, it’s crazy how health insurance costs have skyrocketed! However, I believe under the ACA yearly physicals are covered. Even Liberty Healthshare covers annual exam. Might check into that, Jay. Good luck!
Glad you found something. We would definitely do a health share in the future – at the moment we still qualify for government help so the premium is manageable (although we really don’t get very much value out of it). We’ve done our specialist appointments and dental cleanings in Ecuador and Thailand this year because it’s way cheaper.
It’s so sad/funny that SO many people recommend leaving the country for special care, especially dental! But hey if you’re already traveling, it’s a good strategy for saving money!
Whoa! It means a lot to read that we aren’t the only ones banging our heads against the wall with these things. Thanks so much for taking the time to detail this out, Alyssa. I feel we are about to switch over to Liberty as well.
I’ll throw some support for getting stuff done internationally. Teeth cleaning in Indonesia for $50ish? Sure! The best quality physical I’ve ever had in my life in Thailand for a little over $100? Done!….of course this makes cost/benefit sense if you just happen to be in the area.
It sucks but payments to health shares aren’t currently deductible on your Federal tax return for the self-employed health insurance deduction. I think Missouri is the only state that currently allows a deduction for State tax return.
When we start RVing abroad I’ll have to look into us getting work done over seas! It’s crazy how affordable it can be.
That is a really good point about the tax deduction. I only just learned last week that my insurance last year is deductible, which is awesome! Definitely something to take into consideration.
Ah, good point about the health share payment not being tax deductible for us self-employeds, but at $300/mo vs $1,000/mo (and a deductible 5x higher), I’d say we’re still ahead with Liberty!
Thanks for writing this to spell out your experiences and how you’re dealing with this issue. We are not full-time RVer’s and may never be, but as retired schoolteachers we have dealt with making the healthcare decision for ourselves and our college-age son. In our case, the best alternative ended up being continuing my past plan at a personal cost of over $2,000/month for family coverage!
Wow–that’s crazy money! Hopefully something will change soon to make care more affordable.
Great article, thanks for the details.
Great post! Before heading out on the road, all things health insurance was my world for the last ten years. And like you say, it has a polarizing affect, but I did want to share a great resource for RVers. Virtuwell is an online clinic of sorts that diagnoses and treats a wide variety of aliments. Regardless of your insurance status, the maximum out of pocket cost is $40 (way less than any standard office visit) and could be less if your insurance is accepted. They will call in a prescription if needed to any pharmacy you choose – great option for those of us constantly on the move! www.virtuwell.com
That’s really good to know! I will have to keep that in mind for the future and try it out.
Would this healthcare also make sense whether you are a full time RVer or not? Being over 65 I pay only $135 per month. But my wife is not covered under this plan by paying $324-349 we could both have medical care coverage. Couldn’t we?
I would say that most people who use this type of plan are not full-time travelers. It just happens to be what we use. I can’t really answer any policy questions, but you can contact Liberty to see if it would be a good fit for you.
@alyssapadgett:disqus — curious what your experience has been with LHS thus far? Currently looking at them based off a raving recommendation from a friend.
We haven’t had to make any claims yet, thankfully! But I linked to Michelle’s review of LHS in the article below. I know she made a claim like the very first week they switched, so she has more experience!
My husband is on Medicare. I am on disability, this means I am also on SSN. We are trying to get ourselves ready to live in an RV full-time. Will there be any issues with getting travel.
Hey Natalie! That’s a question for your insurance agent, as we have no experience with Medicare or disability. I can say however, that travel is possible for anyone who wants to do it.
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LOL. Cheapest health insurance I can get is about $1800 per month. Why I’m still working until Medicare.
I have to ask when you got pregnant did you still travel around? How did you complete doctors appt. as I know pregnancy can have multiple appts to attend? Meaning did you still travel or find yourself in one place during the whole of the pregnancy?
We traveled a lot up until a month before my due date. It’s super easy to skip appointments or even do them virtually now. We only had three sonograms over the nine months, so we didn’t miss those, but for the most part, the other appointments are skippable if you’re traveling.
Did Liberty ever reimburse you?? Great insight here – I almost signed up with LHS but something in my gut held me back.
We are looking to start full time RVing so I have been doing a lot of research. This article was helpful so Thank you. If no procedures needs to be done, can we not just use our home States insurance? My first thought when thinking about our Health Insurance coverage was using our States Blue Cross/Blue Shield (WA). Especially because almost all our appointments right now are “tel-a-health” or via “Video Chat” anyways. If we have questions we can email or use our provider’s on-line messaging system. We have only been into a clinic or hospital in the last year for procedures and labs (and me once to the ED for a possible blood clot). This way we get to keep our current provider which we both like very much.
Now we are both diabetic and on regular medications and I had not thought about how or where we would get our prescriptions. But after looking it up, our pharmacy is in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands and they offer in-store clinics and other healthcare services throughout the United States. (Walgreen’s has a total of 9,021 Locations)
When I did my research on health plans through WA State I found there were several plan options in 3 different Tiers (Bronze, Silver & Gold Tiers) and what you paid was based on which plan in which Tier you chose. And you get a Premium Tax Credit based on your Annual Income. Our tax credit would be about $1,265 a month. The Bronze and Silver Tier had a deductible of $150 Individual/$300 Family, out-of-pocket max $800 Individual / $1,600 Family, and was as cheap as $85 month after tax credit. The Gold Tier was of course the highest plans with a deductible of $500 Individual/$1,000 Family, out-of-pocket max $5,250 Individual / $10,500 Family and the cheapest monthly was $273 month after tax credit.
Of course there is No Out of Country Coverage, No Vision and No Dental coverage and we would be paying the out-of-network costs if we need to go to the ED or have labs done when out of state but this options seems so much better than anything else I’ve seen so far, especially after reading your horror story with Liberty Healthshare.
So have you heard of anyone else using their home State’s health plans?
If you keep your home state address then it could be possible. But most people who full-time RV sell their homes and establish their legal address somewhere new (heathandalyssa.com/mail). So it’s pretty rare to hear of someone not switching insurance plans! The biggest concern is just if you can find in-network coverage everywhere with whatever you have to switch to!
My uncle wants to retire next month. He then wants to take his wife on an RV trip so they can visit the different states. Thanks for explaining which healthcare insurance is best for people who live in an RV since they plan to travel for at least a full year without any breaks and could use the right medicare in case of an emergency.
I hear you on the insurance policy front, just ugh. We are basically healthy 50’s have enough money saved to retire full time. Employer paid insurance is 17k year we spend 1.5k year out of pocket, plus 300 year for travel plan.
Insurance gap is our linchpin. We need oh Pooh happened insurance before the 65 Medicare kicks in.
We are getting to the point of ready to gamble 15 years of free time, with shit insurance for that free time. Not the best financial plan.
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