Health Insurance For Van Life

Health insurance as a van lifer is tricky when you’re always on the move. Learn about your best options here.

Choosing a health insurance plan for van life can be a tricky task to navigate. Learn more about where to look for health plans and what questions to ask

Health insurance for van life is one of the more tricky things to figure out due to the nuances of each policy and coverage options that vary based on your state of residence. It’s an important topic to discuss and unfortunately, it’s often forgotten about until the last minute.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for health insurance, and what policy you currently have might not be the best choice once you start traveling out of your home state. While I can’t possibly cover all of the options (and the options also may be subject to change), most van travelers are looking for affordable, quality insurance that will cover them nationwide.

In this blog post, I hope to help you get a basic understanding of your health insurance options and how to get coverage on the road so you can pick the right coverage for you.

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How to Choose Van Life Health Insurance

The big determinant in choosing van life health insurance is whether you’ll be traveling full-time or part-time and whether you’ll regularly return to your home state. This will greatly affect the coverage options that will work for you.

Determining how much care you’ll need on the road is a major factor in choosing coverage. Here are a few other questions to ask yourself:

  • How often do you need to go to a doctor and what types of doctors?
  • Do you have expensive prescriptions?
  • Do you have needs that require you to see a specialist regularly or are you OK with general care?

The most important thing you’ll be looking for as a van lifer is whether out-of-network care is provided and whether the plan has a good nationwide network, with doctors located all over the country.

A woman stands in the doorway of her Sprinter looking out onto snowy mountains
Weigh your options for van life insurance – there is no one-size-fits-all approach

Types of Health Insurance for Van Lifers

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for van life health insurance. We cover the most common options below, but in the end, it comes down to your personal coverage needs and budget.

The Healthcare Marketplace

Great for: part-time van lifers or people who return to their home state often, people with pre-existing conditions

Pros: a good safety net if you are at risk for major health issues, offers the security of a traditional healthcare plan, subsidies available if you are low income

Cons: generally does not offer nationwide plans (except for Florida), can have a high deductible, expensive if you don’t qualify for subsidies

The Healthcare Marketplace (also known as ACA or Obamacare) is the most common place where you will shop for your insurance if you’re based in the United States and are self-employed or not currently working. If you’re traveling outside the United States, then you’ll instead be looking for a travel insurance policy.

In the US, you’ll find the Healthcare Marketplace online at, which is the central hub for health insurance. It is designed to help you find the coverage you need within your budget in the state you officially reside in. In order to apply, you’ll need to declare a specific state as your permanent residence, even if your actual residence has four wheels and you won’t be sticking around too long.

After you fill out an application, you’ll be provided with all the coverage options within a wide range of costs, which can fluctuate depending on your annual income. ACA plans are great for van lifers with low income, as there are subsidies available that will make your health coverage extremely affordable or even free. If you’re a van lifer with a higher income, ACA plans can be quite expensive.

While this could change, currently there are four plan categories: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. They increase in cost and coverage from bronze to platinum, with bronze plans being the least expensive and least coverage, up to platinum which has a higher premium but offers the most coverage.

The Healthcare Marketplace will lay out all of your options once you complete the application, which should help you determine the best plan for your needs and budget.

The main downside of a plan is that it only works in your domicile state, except for emergency room care. Florida is the exception to this rule, offering nationwide ACA healthcare plans. Still, if you are a van lifer who doesn’t require a lot of doctor’s appointments, or you travel back to your domicile state often, this could be a great option.

Catastrophic or Short-Term Insurance

Great for: people who are low risk for major health emergencies, people who don’t mind being ‘underinsured’

Pros: Low cost, usually offer nationwide coverage

Cons: only covers major medical emergencies, only covers a fixed amount for various health services, companies can drop you easily after term

Catastrophic insurance has a low monthly premium but a very high deductible and is only for major medical emergencies. Nothing else is covered, like visits to the doctor or prescriptions, and sometimes these plans are only available if you’re below a certain income level or age bracket and can prove that you can only afford emergency coverage. If you do a lot of outdoor activities with an associated level of risk but otherwise consider yourself generally healthy, this might be a good option to consider.

Health-Sharing Services

Great for: people who are low risk for major medical emergencies, people who want primary care covered at a lower cost than ACA plans

Pros: lower cost than ACA plans but more coverage than other health options, typically nationwide coverage (and even some international coverage), unlimited Telehealth

Cons: it technically isn’t health insurance and companies are not required to pay your bills, limits to what is covered based on company values

Health-sharing services are a newer concept and are often faith-based. It’s like a co-op; all the members pool their money each month and split it between members. Many services are not covered (especially if it is not in line with their religious values), but it’s a viable option for some instances. Be sure to shop around for health-sharing services because the services they offer vary greatly.

Travel Insurance

Great for: people who are low risk for major health emergencies, people who don’t mind being ‘underinsured’

Pros: can be lower cost than other options, can also cover certain backcountry accidents

Cons: not all plans allow you to use in the US if you are a US citizen, must be located certain miles away from your home address

Another option is to look into travel insurance plans that might provide health coverage on the road. Many nomads go this route, so it’s worth looking into and comparing with the Healthcare Marketplace options. Note: travel insurance typically does not work if you are within a certain mile range from your home state.

Choosing a health insurance plan for van life can be a tricky task to navigate. Learn more about where to look for health plans and what questions to ask

Other Healthcare Considerations

The most important thing you’ll be looking for as a van lifer is whether out-of-network care is provided and whether the plan has a good nationwide network, with doctors located all over the country. Here are a few things to consider:

Out-Of-Network Care

It’s important to note that many plans do not cover out-of-network providers, which means when you’re away from your home state and “out of network”, your services will not be covered by your insurance and you’d need to pay out of pocket.

Ideally, you’ll want a plan that will provide coverage everywhere via a nationwide network for doctor’s visits, prescriptions, and emergency services when out-of-state, but at the very least prescriptions and emergencies.

Unforeseen accidents and injuries do happen, so it’s wise to inquire about the plan’s nationwide network and out-of-network coverage.

Nationwide Care

Keep in mind that most plans are designed for the average person living in the same place for more than 6 months out of the year. So while the website will give you a good idea of what coverage is available within your budget and for different levels of care, from there you’ll want to contact the individual insurance companies to inquire about nationwide coverage specifically.

If you plan to return to your domicile state once or twice a year, consider finding local practitioners for doctor’s visits and dental work and seek a plan that offers out-of-network emergency coverage at the very least.

Scheduling appointments when you’re back in your home area will help reduce the risk of having to pay more for someone out of state.

Prescription Refills

Before you hit the road in your van, you’ll want to take care of important doctor appointments and fill prescriptions. To make prescription services easier on the road, choose larger pharmacy networks like major grocery stores, Walmart, or Walgreens, for example, so you don’t have to transfer your prescriptions each time you move from place to place since they will already be in their computer systems.

Community Health Clinics

If you are a van lifer who is uninsured, underinsured, or traveling out of your home state, you can receive low-cost health care from community health clinics. These clinics are often run via grants and they work on a sliding scale payment system based on your income. They offer services such as general primary care, travel immunizations, referrals to specialized care, and women’s health services. You can find nearby community health clinics here.

Backcountry Evacuation

Something else to consider is investing in a Garmin InReach Rescue Insurance plan if you like to do a lot of backcountry adventuring like skiing, backpacking, hiking, or anyone who frequently goes on solo adventures. This is totally optional but will cover your transportation and some medical costs in the event of a life-threatening rescue.

A man sticks his finger with a needle in the backcountry to check blood sugar level (Type 1 Diabetic)
My partner Ryan has Type 1 Diabetes, so we carry additional rescue insurance

Tax Penalties

While the healthcare rules change periodically, it’s worth mentioning that you may be penalized on your tax returns if you choose not to be insured while on the road. As of 2022, there is no penalty, but this could change down the road.

Ultimately, this is a personal choice and depends on current healthcare rules, but it’s important to weigh all your options to find what’s best for you.

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What questions do you have about health insurance for van life? Share your questions, tips, and experiences down in the comments, and make sure to sign up for our van life newsletter here.

Choosing a health insurance plan for van life can be tricky. Learn about health insurance options for nomads in this blog post.

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