Do RVers Really Understand All of Their Insurance Options?
“I’m thinking about retiring from my job early, purchasing an RV, and taking the leap of going full-time. There are a lot of logistics to figure out, but one of the pieces I have been struggling with the most is what to do about health insurance. Can’t I buy a plan like the one I’ve had through my employer? I don’t even understand what my insurance options are. Can you help me?”
As a licensed health insurance agent working with the RVer Insurance Exchange, I hear some version of this question almost daily! Becoming a full-time RVer usually starts out as a dream. The idea of quitting your job, selling your house and most of your possessions, and striking out on the road is full of adventurous and romantic appeal for many Americans who are tired of living in the “rat race”. However, taking the dream of a nomadic RV lifestyle and turning it into a reality is full of planning, logistics, and brass tacks. One piece that many prospective RVers struggle with is health insurance. In my line of work, I find that most people do not have a basic understanding of their different insurance options. This lack of knowledge can cause serious issues with tasks such as creating an accurate budget and selecting a plan that provides adequate coverage.
Health Insurance Options – Tips from a Pro
With Open Enrollment 2023 right around the corner, I am going to shed some light on what different types of health insurance plans you can select when you’re searching for an individual health insurance policy. Just to clarify – an individual health insurance policy is a plan that you purchase on your own. Even if you are shopping for health insurance for your whole family, you are still in the market for an individual health insurance plan. Policies that are offered through an employer, labor union, or government run program (like Medicare or Medicaid) ARE NOT individual health insurance plans.
One more thing – the insurance options being presented in this article are all actual insurance options. For an insurance company to sell you a policy, they must have it approved by the Department of Insurance in the state where the policy is being purchased. Each state has its own DOI that oversees all insurance products. Some examples of the role of the DOI are to regulate plan rates, investigate complaints, and enforce insurance laws. This is pertinent information, because there are some products available that you can find on the internet that are not actual insurance.
The Problem With Health Share Plans
An example of a “health plan” that is not an insurance product and not governed by a Department of Insurance would be a health share. Since they are not subject to the rules and regulations imposed by the DOI, non-insurance products are very risky and vulnerable. There is not the same complaint structure and legal recourse that legitimate insurance companies are subject to. Additionally, health share companies have shut their doors in the past suddenly, without paying existing claims. They are not required to have reinsurance, or insurance for insurance companies (who knew!).
Individual Health Insurance Plan Types
1. Affordable Care Act Plans (AKA Obamacare, ACA, Exchange Plans)
One of the most known and advertised type of individual health insurance options available to the public are the Affordable Care Act plans, or ACA plans. These are plans that are sold by different insurance companies on either Healthcare.gov, or a state exchange (most states use Healthcare.gov). These are the plans that many Americans apply for during Open Enrollment every year. ACA plans are only available for purchase during Open Enrollment, or if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to something like losing employer coverage, getting married, or moving to a new state.
ACA Plans Usually Do Not Cover RVers!
The largest downside to these plans for RVers is that they do not travel well. Most ACA plans are state specific HMOs, meaning that if you leave the state (or just go outside of your plan network within the state!) your insurance coverage basically goes up in smoke. I come across a lot of people who believe that these plans “cover you in an emergency out-of-network”, but often this is not true. I challenge folks who tell me this to define “coverage in an emergency”. Would they consider being hospitalized for an illness an emergency?
At this point in time, most ACA plans do not cover out-of-network hospitalizations…at all.Carly Zielger – RVer Health Insurance Professional
ACA Plans Can Be Expensive
Additionally, these plans are extremely expensive. The federal government does give “premium tax credits” aka premium subsidies based on household income, so it is possible to qualify for a lower premium with one of these plans. But a lower premium does not come without a price! You are required to guess your household income for the upcoming year to determine your premium subsidy. If you guess wrong, when the time comes to file taxes you could end up owing thousands of dollars back to the government. A couple examples of things that could throw off a yearly household income estimate: selling your house, selling your rig, needing to “show more income” to qualify for financing for a new rig, gaining an inheritance, etc.
There are many insurance companies who offer plans on the ACA. One huge upside to these plans is that you do not need to medically qualify for a plan! Regardless of health conditions, anyone can purchase an ACA plan. If you think this type of plan is right for you, please consider giving us a call at the RV Insurance Exchange. Not all ACA plans are equal, and we are well versed at which insurance companies offer the best plans for folks who are travelling and spending a lot of time outside of their domicile state.
2. Short-Term Insurance Options
Short-Term Insurance plans are a great option for folks looking to RV or travel for a short period of time- think months, not years. Taking off for the summer to explore in a camper? A short-term plan could be for you! Another example of a person who could really benefit from a short-term insurance plan is an early retiree 64-year-old who has several months before aging into Medicare and needs a “bridge”.
One huge benefit to some short-term plans is that they can provide nationwide PPO networks! This is a must-have for people who RV and travel, as a limited networks can have disastrous consequences. Short-term plans are sold by insurance companies off the ACA Exchange. When an individual health insurance plan is sold off-exchange, it is not governed by the laws of the Affordable Care Act and is able to have a different plan structure. Since short-term plans are off exchange, you can purchase a policy at any time of the year, not just during Open Enrollment. Short-term plans are not required to cover all the “minimum essential coverage” components of an Affordable Care Act plan. This means that the premiums for this type of plan are typically much lower than even the cheapest bronze ACA plan. It also means that short-term plans offer limited/no coverage for things like maternity benefits, checkups or wellness exams, or treatment for pre-existing conditions. These plans are also typically underwritten, meaning that you will have to apply for a policy and meet certain health criteria in order to have a policy issued.
Short-Term Plan Benefits
The benefits of a short-term plan vary based on what insurance company you purchase a plan from, and what the plan structure is. There are short-term plans that offer copays for doctor’s visits, and there are also plans that are very catastrophic and don’t provide any coverage until the policyholder reaches a high deductible. If this type of plan sounds like it may be a good fit for you, reach out to us at the RV Insurance Exchange for help finding the right short-term insurance plan! Our agents are contracted with many insurance companies, and know which plans offer the best networks and benefits specifically for RVers.
One of our favorite options for folks that RV and travel is the fixed-benefit plan. This type of plan works great if you are RVing as a lifestyle and not just for a short period of time. Looking to hit the road, travel around, and then eventually settle down? This type of plan could be wonderful for you. Like short-term plans, fixed-benefit plans are off the ACA exchange and therefore not subject to their restrictions. This means you can purchase a plan at any time of the year, not just during Open Enrollment. It also means that these plans have much lower premiums than even the cheapest bronze ACA plan.
3. Fixed-Benefit / Indemnity Plan
At the RV Insurance Exchange, we have a specific fixed-benefit plan that has many advantages for RVers. It is nationwide coverage that will truly work for you wherever the road may take you. One of the biggest advantages of our fixed-benefit plan is that it is a PPO plan with a very wide network of providers, but also allows you to go out-of-network with no penalty at all. This means that policyholders have complete freedom of choice regarding who they want to visit for their healthcare. It also means policyholders with this plan will always have the same coverage regardless of what ER or hospital they visit during an emergency.
You cannot check if the nearest hospital is in-network when you’re in the back of an ambulance!
This plan is also guaranteed renewable. This means that you will apply for a policy one time and your plan will auto-renew year after year, until you either cancel it or turn 65 and age into Medicare. Not only does this save you a lot of hassle, but it also eliminates going through multiple wait periods for pre-existing condition coverage like you would have to if you were to purchase a sequence of short-term policies.
Other advantages of the fixed-benefit plan that we offer include not having to select a primary care physician, not needing referrals for specialists, and yearly preventive care benefits for the whole family. Our plan also has optional catastrophic components that provide additional nationwide coverage for major events like a heart attack or cancer. This plan is highly customizable and has the ability to suit the different needs of many RVers and folks who travel.
These options are the plan types you will encounter when you are searching for an individual insurance policy. If you come across a product that seems different, I urge you to take a closer look at the fine print – it is going to be some type of one of these plans. Better yet, please consider requesting information on your insurance options from the RVer Insurance Exchange. The licensed health insurance agents who work with RVIE are all health insurance experts who are well versed at the pros and cons of each type of plan. We can listen to what you are looking for, then help you pick the plan that suits your specific needs. Give a call today!