Full time RVers already have a lot on their plates.
There’s the pleasant, but time-consuming, task of raking the map for your next great destination, as well as keeping up with regular preventative maintenance to ensure your rig is fit as a fiddle and ready to drive. Don’t forget about calling ahead to those campgrounds and booking your sites ahead of time — you don’t want to miss out on your 50% Passport America savings!
There’s also the chore of setting up your domestic state of residence for voting and taxation purposes, not to mention the regular old everyday reality of cooking, cleaning, and shopping. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re on the road!
And that’s exactly why there’s one more not-so-exciting travel reality you absolutely must prioritize.
We’re talking about acquiring and keeping up with your medical insurance. And while it’s not the stuff of travel fantasies, it’s a very important topic — and an investment you’ll be happy with, should anything happen.
But what’s the best health insurance for travelers who live nomadically in their rig, full-time RVing? How can you find insurance that covers you wherever you go while you live full-time in your RV?
As you might expect with anything healthcare related, it’s not the simplest topic in the world… but we’re here to help you tackle it! And fortunately, there are several options out there for the nomadic among us.
Things to Consider When Shopping for a Healthcare Plan
Let’s start with the basics. What do you want out of your healthcare plan when you’ve made travel into your lifestyle?
While special travel insurance plans exist for specific trips, that isn’t what we’re talking about. You’re on the road perpetually, so you need health care that will fulfill your needs without an end date if you’re going to live in your RV full-time.
But before you merrily go off to buy health insurance for your travels, there are some things you should know — because it can be convoluted, even if you’re not a full-time traveler!
Here are the main things you’ll want to consider when shopping for a health insurance plan:
- State of Residency: First of all, your healthcare options will depend on your state of residency. So if you’re a full-timer, or hoping to become one soon, you need to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row when it comes to this logistical chore.
- Coverage Needs: Assess your healthcare needs and preferences. Consider factors such as pre-existing conditions, chronic illnesses, medications, frequency of doctor visits, and any specific medical requirements. Determine the level of coverage you require for routine care, emergencies, and potential future health issues.
- Flexibility of Provider Networks: Consider the flexibility you need in choosing healthcare providers. Full-time RVers often travel and move between different areas, so having a health insurance plan with a broad provider network across multiple states can be beneficial.
- Affordability: Determine your budget and evaluate the affordability of different health insurance options. Consider the monthly premiums, deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket maximums. Remember to also factor in potential costs for prescription medications, specialist visits, and worst case scenario, hospitalization.
- Emergency Coverage: Full-time RVers should consider the extent of emergency coverage provided by the health insurance plan. Ensure that emergency services are covered both in-network and out-of-network to ensure access to care in unforeseen situations. Generally, most plans cover out-of-state emergency and urgent care services regardless of what state you are in.
- Prescription Medication Coverage: If you require prescription medications, carefully review the health insurance plans to understand the coverage for prescription drugs. Consider the copayments, formulary lists, and any limitations on coverage for specific medications you may need.
- Travel and Out-of-State Coverage: If you plan to travel extensively or reside in different states as a full-time RVer, verify the health insurance plan’s coverage across state lines. Ensure that the plan provides adequate coverage and access to healthcare services regardless of your location.
- Additional Benefits: Some health insurance plans offer additional benefits that may be relevant to full-time RVers. These can include telehealth services, wellness programs, preventive care coverage, and discounts on certain healthcare services. Assess these benefits and determine their value in relation to your specific needs.
- Long-Term Planning: Consider your long-term goals and potential changes in your health insurance needs. Evaluate whether the plan you choose can accommodate future changes and life events, such as starting a family or transitioning to retirement.
- Policy Exclusions and Limitations: Carefully review the policy exclusions and limitations of each health insurance plan. Understand any waiting periods, restrictions on coverage for specific conditions or treatments, and limitations on certain services.
- Customer Support and Service: Evaluate the customer support and service provided by the health insurance company. Look for reviews and ratings to gauge the company’s responsiveness, efficiency in claims processing, and overall customer satisfaction.
It’s important to note that while most health insurance plans generally offer coverage nationwide, the level of coverage may vary based on whether you receive care from in-network or out-of-network providers. In-network providers have negotiated agreements with insurance companies, resulting in lower costs and higher coverage levels.
Out-of-network care may be covered but often involves higher out-of-pocket costs for the insured individual. If you already have health insurance, we recommend you contact your health insurance provider or review your policy documents to understand the specific coverage details and any limitations that may apply.
ACA Health Insurance for RVers
Many full-time RVers are self-employed or freelance, which means they’ll need to buy health insurance through the marketplace — that is, open enrollment through the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. (Yes, it’s still in effect, even though he’s out of office!)
The ACA applies to all U.S. citizens and legal residents, including full-time RVers! The Marketplace offers a variety of health insurance options with different levels of coverage and costs. It provides a centralized platform to compare plans and determine eligibility for financial assistance based on income.
You can search the Affordable Care Act marketplace, and enroll in a plan, by clicking on this link.
Open Enrollment is an annual period during which you can enroll in or make changes to an ACA plan. This is the ideal time to explore different coverage options and sign up for a plan that suits your needs. Thankfully, as of 2019, the individual mandate which required individuals to have health insurance or pay a penalty was repealed, so if you’re not currently insured, you likely won’t have to worry about paying. There are still a few states that enforce annual proof of health insurance though, including California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia.
Pros and Cons of ACA for Full-Time RVers:
The ACA offers full-time RVers the opportunity to access comprehensive health insurance coverage, guaranteed protection for pre-existing conditions, and potential financial assistance. While ACA plans provide several advantages, including nationwide coverage and essential health benefits, there are also limitations such as limited provider networks and potential higher premiums for certain individuals. It’s important for full-time RVers to evaluate their specific healthcare needs, income eligibility for subsidies, and travel patterns before purchasing an ACA plan.
Medicare for RVers
Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily for individuals aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities or end-stage renal disease. Full-time RVers who meet the eligibility criteria can enroll in Medicare regardless of their residency or travel status. Medicare consists of different parts, including hospital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Part B), and prescription drug coverage (Part D). Supplemental insurance options like Medigap can further enhance coverage for full-time RVers.
One main advantage of Medicare for full-time RVers is its nationwide coverage, allowing access to healthcare services from providers who accept Medicare across the country.
Private Health Insurance for RVers
Alongside the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there’s the option of consulting a licensed insurance agent or broker to explore private ACA-compliant health insurance plans. These private plans may be more cost-effective compared to the options available on the ACA marketplace. However, it’s important to note that private plans typically do not accept individuals with pre-existing conditions. If you don’t have any conditions that would disqualify you, we recommend you compare both private and marketplace options to determine the most suitable choice for your needs.
You can use the search tool on Healthcare.gov to find licensed brokers and agents.
Fixed Health Insurance for RVers
A Fixed Benefit Insurance plan, also known as fixed indemnity, offers a predetermined payout for qualified medical services, regardless of the actual cost of those services. This type of plan covers various healthcare services, including hospital care, emergency room visits, ambulance services, surgeries, doctor visits, wellness and preventive care, prescription drugs, diagnostic lab tests, imaging, and more.
One advantage of a fixed benefit plan is that it allows you to choose any healthcare provider without the need to select a primary care physician. This flexibility can be particularly beneficial for RVers who travel extensively and may need medical care in different locations.
For RVers, especially those who are full-time and operate on a structured budget, managing healthcare costs is just as important as managing other expenses such as fuel, campgrounds, and RV maintenance. A fixed benefit plan can help in anticipating and controlling healthcare expenses, providing a level of predictability and budgeting.
Sharing Ministries for RVers
Healthcare sharing ministry plans provide an alternative approach to health insurance where you pay monthly premiums to a health share organization instead of an insurance company. These payments go towards assisting others with their medical expenses, and when you have a medical need, you contribute a portion of the bill, akin to a deductible, while other plan members’ payments go towards covering your expenses. These plans can have religious or secular orientations, but they do not fulfill minimum essential coverage requirements and may not cover all types of care. Additionally, there is typically a waiting period for pre-existing conditions to be eligible for coverage. For RVers, healthcare sharing ministry plans offer flexibility in provider choice, which is advantageous for their mobile lifestyle, but careful consideration of plan guidelines and limitations is essential.
Telemedicine refers to virtual healthcare services where you can connect with a medical professional through your smart device, which thankfully most insurance plans cover nowadays. For full-time RVers, telemedicine can be particularly valuable as it provides access to healthcare regardless of location, as long as there is an internet signal available. There are a number of virtual doctor programs and apps out there (we’ve listed some of our favorites in the section at the bottom of this article) and most offer a way to speak with a doctor, get prescriptions, and even get lab testing if needed.
Virtual vet visits are also available through similar tools, so be sure to find one of these if you plan to take furry friends on your RV adventures. It is important to note that telemedicine is not a substitute for comprehensive medical insurance, as it does not cover hospitalizations, procedures, or emergency care.
Short-Term Health Insurance for RVers
Short-term health insurance provides nationwide coverage and can be an attractive option for individuals in transitional periods or those seeking temporary coverage. These plans are typically valid for a few months, ranging from three to twelve months or more. They are commonly used during job transitions or as a temporary solution between other insurance plans. While some individuals may choose to renew these policies for long-term coverage, there are risks involved. Each renewal requires recertification, and there is no guarantee that the insurance company will continue to renew the policy.
Best State for RV Health Insurance
Fortunately, one of the most popular states to establish residency in for full-timers is also one of the best when it comes to finding a healthcare plan that will cover you no matter where you wander!
What state might that be? We’re glad you asked.
For all its faults, Florida’s got some serious benefits for full-time RVers. It’s a great place to establish your residency because it doesn’t carry an income tax, has relatively affordable vehicle registration fees, and is popular enough amongst the nomadic set that it has a ton of pre-established mail-forwarding services so you can easily get a “permanent” address.
It also turns out to have some of the cheapest and most comprehensive health insurance for full-time RVers, which will cover them during their travels. Win-win, right?
Florida Blue, one of the state’s most prominent insurers, offers two types of Florida Blue EPO/PPO plans (Blue Select & Blue Options) which act as EPO in-state, but take advantage of an extensive and highly reputable “Blue Card” network that will function out of state as well, essentially making them PPO out of state. That makes it a great option for full-time RV health insurance, and it doesn’t cost as much as you might think.
Along with having a workable option for full-timers, Florida is also one of the states where insurance is most affordable in general. So while you still might be paying a $200 premium, and that monthly chunk of change might still feel painful, just know it could be worse if you enrolled in a different state!
RVer Insurance Exchange
RVer insurance exchange is a platform that connects RV owners with knowledgeable, licensed insurance representatives that specialize in RV insurance. It serves as a centralized hub where full-time or part-time RVers can obtain quotes, compare coverage options, and purchase insurance policies specifically tailored for RVers. Representatives assist with researching, choosing, and enrolling in the right insurance. This group is fantastic at helping RVers find insurance plans that work for them and their unique living situations, so they can rest easy knowing they will be cared for no matter where they roam.
In addition to health insurance, they can also help you obtain dental and vision coverage.
Handling Medical Needs from the Road
Many people wonder how to handle medical needs while traveling via RV. The truth of the matter is, the answer to this depends on how often you travel, as well as your current health situation.
For instance, if you travel full-time in your RV, you will need to do a lot more to prepare for medical care on the road than you would if you were only planning to travel for a week or two. Meanwhile, those traveling for several months will need to make more preparations than the casual vacationer, but may make some different decisions than the full-time RVer.
No matter what your situation is, we have some advice for you.
How to Prepare Before Hitting the Road
Before we discuss what to do while traveling, let’s talk about the preparations you might want to make before hitting the road. By taking these simple steps before you leave home, you could avoid major problems down the line.
Talk to Your Doctor
First and foremost, you will need to speak with your doctor, dentist, and even the vet who cares for your pets. Make sure there are no medical reasons you might want to avoid travel at this time, and ask if there are any special steps you should take in order to be medically prepared for your RV trip.
Carry Medical Documents
We highly recommend keeping a digital copy of important medical documents on hand at all times.
- For people, this might include documentation of allergies, vaccinations, dental x-rays, prescriptions, and known medical problems.
- For pets, it might just be vaccination documentation and your last vet visit summary.
These documents can help tremendously should you or your pet experience a medical emergency.
Stock Up on Prescriptions
If you have prescriptions you must take on a regular basis, be sure you stock up on those before you leave. You’ll want to have plenty for the entire trip, plus some extras in case getting home takes longer than anticipated.
Plan Your Return Home
If you plan to be out for a long time, you might want to plan your return to your domicile state before you even leave. This would involve making medical appointments that you will be due for, so you can get the cleanings, checkups, and medications you need as soon as you return.
This step is especially important for full-time RVers who may only return to their “home” once a year for a short period of time.
Finding Needed Support on the Road
Now that you have the preparations out of the way, you might be wondering how to handle medical needs on a road trip should they arise. The tips below can help you navigate these situations, which can be tricky in some cases.
Find a Community
There’s safety in numbers. This is one of the many great reasons to find a community on the road.
RVers are great people. Make connections with folks in your campground, attend RV rallies, join Facebook groups, and make a point of making friends wherever you go. You never know when a helping hand from another fellow RVer might be helpful. This can be especially true in a medical emergency.
Turn to Online Therapy
Those who will only be gone for a couple of weeks don’t really need to worry about missing out on their usual therapy sessions. That said, if you’ll be gone for months, you might want to look into virtual therapy options. Many therapists are offering an online option these days. There are also apps that offer therapy for free.
Use Online Search Tools
If you need to see someone in person, you might be wondering how in the world to find a doctor wherever you land. In this case, we recommend using a search tool such as Zocdoc to find a well-rated doctor who will accept your insurance plan.
If a dentist is what you’re looking for, try checking out the website of your dental insurance company to see if they provide a nationwide list of providers. Otherwise a quick Google search should reveal some of the dentists that offer emergency appointments in your area.
Top Medical Applications and Programs for RV Trips
The apps and programs below can be extremely helpful for RVers looking to handle medical care while traveling. Some of these were mentioned earlier in the article and others were not. That said, all are well worth looking into to see if they might help you stay healthy as you enjoy your RV adventures.
Mental health matters, especially when you’re on the road living life on the fly for extended periods of time. Betterhelp is a virtual platform that connects individuals with licensed therapists through various communication methods, such as video chat, phone calls, real-time instant messaging, or text messaging. While it is not a substitute for comprehensive medical insurance, BetterHelp provides a convenient and accessible way to receive therapy and obtain support.
The platform allows full-time RVers to access therapy regardless of their location, offering flexibility and convenience. With 24/7 messaging capabilities, individuals can reach out to their therapist anytime, making it a valuable resource for emotional support while on the road. BetterHelp offers different plans at varying costs, providing options that cater to different needs and budgets. Insurance doesn’t typically cover remote therapy, but most deductibles are about the same price as using Betterhelp.
Medjet is a fantastic service that ensures you can get home quickly should a medical emergency arise while you are more than 150 miles from home. It covers your flight and even takes care of the planning for you. You can save 10% off the annual membership with RVshare by signing up through the link above.
K Health App
One of our favorite apps for virtual doctors’ visits, K Health allows patients to speak with a doctor, get prescriptions, and have lab work done. Subscriptions are incredibly affordable, making it financially possible to have both the virtual doctor option and traditional insurance.
Doctor on Demand
Doctor on Demand is another great virtual doctor app. It works very much like the K Health app and is also very affordable.
Airvet: Vet on Demand
Airvet is the pet version of the virtual doctor apps above. It allows you and your pup, kitty, or other pet to see a certified vet on demand, no matter where you are.
Solv Health helps patients search for available care providers near wherever they are. Users can look at reviews and see if a doctor will accept their insurance, as well as what they might expect in terms of cost. The website also offers an option to see a virtual doctor.
Similar to Solv Health, Zocdoc gives users a way to search for care providers who will accept their insurance policy. It can search for primary care physicians as well as dentists, eye doctors, and more. Often, same-day appointments can be made via the website.
Wysa: Sleep Depression Support
Though not a replacement for a human therapist, Wysa is a great addition to traditional therapy and can often be enough to keep you mentally healthy until you return from your trip. This app features an emotionally intelligent bot who listens to your problems and even gives advice.
This might sound silly, many users tout its benefits, saying it has been a game changer for them.
The Bottom Line
It’s not always easy to find health insurance for travel in the US. But as you can see, there are options out there, whether you need to buy insurance through the market or you’re covered through an employer or other venue (such as Medicare).
In all cases, please reach out directly to your employer or a representative from your health insurance marketplace in order to ensure you get the best plan for your needs. We’re great at a lot of things here at RVshare, but we are in no way health insurance experts!
For more information on health insurance for full-time RVers, we recommend the following books. They’re also great if you just want to know more about health insurance in general, or specifically for travel (whether by RV or otherwise!)
- Understanding Your Health Insurance: Uncover the Basics, Break Through the Confusion of Premium, Deductible, Out-of-Pocket, and Copay — by Narilyn B Baylon (This primer will help you better understand what you’re paying for and get the most out of it, whether you’re traveling or not!)
- A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV: Everything I Wish I Knew Before Full-Time RVing Across America
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