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Vanlife Health Insurance

Vanlife health insurance is definitely one of the most confusing aspects of being a nomad.  One of the benefits of working for a corporate company is having an employer-subsidized health care plan.  By sourcing health insurance through your company, your costs are much lower than they would be if you purchased health insurance through the private marketplace.

When we started planning for vanlife, we had to consider our options for vanlife health insurance.  Losing our company-provided policy was an intimidating factor to consider.  Along with the many benefits our company offered, inexpensive, great health insurance was one of them.  

Since we are young and healthy, our health insurance requirements are not very complicated.  We don’t have prescriptions and don’t see doctors or specialists regularly. For example, we need basic coverage for preventative care such as dental cleanings, eye exams and yearly check-ups.

the best van for vanlife

we needed a plan for emergencies

However, we are very active and have several outdoor hobbies that can lead to injury.  Anything can happen while we’re outdoors.  Mountain biking, climbing, and surfing increases our risk of injury while we’re out having fun.  Although we’re always careful, you never know when you’ll sprain an ankle hiking or crash your bike and break a collarbone.

The fear of getting hurt and falling under a huge burden of medical bills is very real for most people, including us.  Arguments about our broken health care system aside, you should know that there are several ways to get vanlife health insurance without breaking the bank, and without relying on your employer for it.

We are not health insurance experts.  This article is for information purposes only, healthcare costs vary widely depending on your state, income, and healthcare coverage.

Option 1:  COBRA

Coverage – Excellent

Costs – Very High

COBRA is only an option for people who are leaving a job whose employer provided health insurance.  According to this article on Investopedia, The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 allows eligible employees to retain their healthcare coverage that was provided by their employer.  Also, the cost is the same group rate that was provided to the company.  You can retain this coverage for a limited time after leaving your company. However, you do have to start paying the entire premium yourself, including what your employer was covering while you worked there. In addition, this premium may also increase by an additional 2% – 5% for administrative costs.

While you will have the same great coverage as before, the costs will likely double, or triple for you.  This is entirely dependent on how much of your plans premium your company was paying for. For many people, including us, this option is simply too costly of an option to pursue.

Option 2:  Market Place

Coverage – Mediocre

Costs – Very High

It is easy to get confused when shopping for a health insurance plan through the marketplace.   Healthcare.gov provides a launch point to shop for health insurance and is maintained by the federal government.  Some states operate their own health insurance Marketplace and Healthcare.gov will direct you to those based on your state of residency.

Basically, your state application process will try to match you with a plan that gives you the coverage you need.  It will likely ask you your income, age, how often you need to see a doctor, what your prescriptions are, etc. Based on your answers, it will provide you with plans offered by insurance companies in your state that meet your needs.

Unfortunately, most of these plans are actually quite expensive considering the coverage you receive.  For example, the least expensive plan from Colorado that was available to me was an EPO (Exclusive Provider Organization) plan.  EPO plans are generally less expensive, but they are also flexible than a PPO, and require you to see in-network doctors only. The plan offered to me cost $250/month ($4,200/year), and had an $8,000 deductible and an $8,000 out-of-pocket limit.  Better coverage such as an EPO plan with a lower deductible or even an HMO plan increased the premium by several hundred dollars per year.

bottom line:

Needless to say, these health insurance plans are not in the vanlife budget.  We’ve saved up enough money to cover reasonably-priced health care costs, but nothing like this.  Especially since these plans only cover in-state medical costs. Since marketplace insurance is provided by the state, many residents can not receive care outside of the state where they reside.  With the exception of life-threatening injuries, our regular doctor’s visits are not covered outside of Colorado.

While Catastrophic Plans are available through the marketplace, they do not meet the requirements of a healthcare plan and you may receive penalties on your state income taxes.

PRO TIP:: As of the time of writing this article, there is no federal penalty for not having health insurance, but some states have imposed penalties for lack of coverage.  However, each state has their own exemptions, and you should look at this list before considering not having health insurance. 

Option 3:  Medicaid

Coverage – Mediocre

Costs – Dependent on Income (usually low to medium)

Fortunately, most health insurance plans available through the federal and state marketplace can be subsidized based on your income.  If you do not qualify for these subsidies due to your income, it is likely that these plans will still be too expensive.  

However, if you are considered “low income” by your state, the state will subsidize your health care costs.  The subsidies you qualify for are dependent on the state marketplace you use and your income. As you shop for healthcare plans on your state’s marketplace, there will be an option to assess your costs based on your income.  You should  apply for and assess your eligibility for any subsidies your state offers before you buy any health insurance plan.

make money on the road

OPtion 4:  Health Share Plan

Coverage – Poor to Mediocre

Costs – Low to Medium

Many people are turning to Faith based, ministry provided health share plans in lieu of the Marketplace or COBRA.  If the plans available on the Marketplace or COBRA are too expensive still, a Health Share might be for you.

According to Wikipedia, “Health care sharing ministries are organizations in the United States in which health care costs are shared among members who have common ethical or religious beliefs.”

This means that there are a few caveats to the health insurance you receive through a health share ministry.  Firstly, you must be Christian. These organizations are not insurance companies, and they are not licensed or regulated as such.  There is *literally* no guarantee that your medical bills will be covered. For example, you pay out of pocket for everything and apply for a refund later.  Generally speaking, they do not cover pre-existing conditions, pregnancy, preventative healthcare costs, dental or vision, or any treatment that does not align with Christian values such as an abortion.

bottom line:

While the monthly premiums are more affordable than most marketplace plans and the deductibles are relatively low, it is a huge risk that there is no guarantee of reimbursement.  For us, that is a non-starter, and not something we are willing to invest money into.

Other options for vanlife health insurance include:

Private Health Insurance

Parent’s Health Insurance – If you meet the age and marital status requirements (26 years old or younger, single)

College Provided Health Insurance – Many colleges provide plans for students.  Enroll in an online class or two and take advantage of this benefit.

Travel Insurance – If you are looking to Vanlife for a limited amount of time, you can pay for a travel insurance policy through World Nomads Travel Insurance.  They offer a great policy for up to 180 days, and it will cover you anywhere you go outside of 100 miles from your home address.


Obviously, everyone will have different health insurance requirements.  Since each plan is based on your needs, your income, and your state of residency, each plan’s cost and coverage will vary. 

These are simply a few options that might help you figure out the best vanlife health insurance plan for you.  We hope you found what you were looking for, and please leave us a comment below to let us know!