A Full-time RVer’s Domicile Dilemma (Solved!)

Just about a year ago, I ranted about the state of health care for nomads under age 65. Today, after nearly 15 years of trying to access medical care on the road, I believe we solved our full-time RVer’s domicile dilemma by becoming Colorado residents. Here’s how.

To summarize: it’s a pain-in-the-butt to get medical care when you’re a full-timer who’s not old enough for Medicare. We are not not anxious to get there, we just want good health care that covers us in our travels. There are no health insurance plans with nationwide coverage. Not even one that we couldn’t afford. Coast-to-coast, traditional health insurance plans just don’t exist anymore.

Some companies claim they cover people who travel around like we do. But buyer beware: these fake health insurance companies are some of the biggest health “insurance” scams around. Customers get taken for thousands of dollars in premiums or dues, and rarely get anything in return when they need it most.

Step 1: We Moved to a Colorado Domicile

Cold run on the Watson Lake Trail, Colorado
It’s wasn’t a tough choice to become Colorado Residents

We purposely honed in on a Colorado domicile for two big reasons. It’s an awesome place to live. And Kaiser Permanente Health Care has a growing presence in the state. So last year immediately after closing the purchase of our Fort Collins duplex, we immediately dumped our Texas domicile and set down Colorado roots. Here’s what we did:

  1. First, we joined Kaiser as new members, and dumped our crappy Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas HMO.
  2. Next, we registered our Dodge and Arctic Fox with Colorado DMV. This automatically made us Colorado voters.
  3. We signed up for a digital mailbox in Fort Collins, to capture any Colorado mail that comes to us while we’re away.
  4. And most recently, had the unpleasant but necessary obligation to start paying Colorado state income tax.

By taking these steps, we made it clear to the bureaucratic powers that Colorado is our permanent domicile.

Step 2: This Health Plan Solved Our Full-time RVer’s Medical Insurance Dilemma

We chose Kaiser because they have a presence in states where we travel the most, all along the West Coast. Before we made the switch, I confirmed that members can access care with the same plan coverage, no matter where they are located in Kaiser territory. Today, after a year of being members, are happy with the decision. We’ve received mostly flawless patient care in Colorado, California, and presently Oregon.

Details About Our new Kaiser Plan

  • Like our old Blue Cross plan, it’s an HMO with a crazy $13k deductible between us
  • We pay a discounted rate for the majority of care, until we hit the deductible
  • And we still don’t get any pharmacy, dental, or optical care with this plan
  • On the Colorado health insurance exchange, it’s close to $400 a month for the two of us.

No, it’s not inexpensive. But we are actually getting something out of the deal. We’ve used it for minor medical needs that we would have put off or avoided with our old coverage that only covered us in Texas. Our direct experience with Kaiser over the last year reflects excellent, consistent, and coordinated care. Kaiser practitioners and those affiliated with Kaiser in any West Coast state can look up our records online and know our entire health history at a glance. This is critical for full-time RVers like us.

Oh and I forgot to mention that we kept our air ambulance plan with MASA. Not knowing exactly how Kaiser deals with air ambulance situations, the $500 a year we pay for MASA is worth the peace of mind.

Step 3: Keep on Truckin’!

Dodge Ram mileage as full-time RVers
226k miles & counting!

Not everyone is crazy about Kaiser Health Care and I get that. They operate as a not-for-profit HMO but like all health insurance companies, they’re in it to make a profit. Kaiser always gets accused of skimping on patient care to save money. I’ve heard a few horror stories about Kaiser, and my own family experienced one bad situation when my Dad was still alive. But it’s been my experience that medical care horror stories can happen anywhere, with any company. You have to advocate for your health care needs no matter what plan you signed onto.

So overall, we have never been this pleased with our health care, not even when we were living our old life in Eureka. Making the move to a state where Kaiser has a presence was the smartest thing we’ve ever done to protect ourselves against a medical bankruptcy. And being Colorado residents has never made us happier.

4 thoughts on “A Full-time RVer’s Domicile Dilemma (Solved!)”

  1. I’m surprised you are paying $500 a year for MASA. Many years ago MASA offered a lifetime family plan, I believe that was when we met. Anyway, we purchased it for $4,500 for two people for life. I think you had to be at least 50 years of age. I think I broke even already, but since I plan to be around for another 10-15 years, its well worth it, plus it is just something else I don’t need to be paying for now that I’m retired.

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  2. I’m so glad it’s working for you! We became Florida residents because Florida Blue still offers a couple of nationwide network plans. It meant we could keep our NH doctors for annual visits and know we had coverage elsewhere too.

    Now we are in Canada and learning a whole new healthcare system…exhausting, but it’s affordable…

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  3. You said it exactly right. Medical horror stories can happen anywhere, and everyone must advocate for their own health.

    Regarding them being able to see your medical records at Kaiser outside of Colorado–that’s actually a function of the electronic medical record system that many major U.S. medical centers use, including Kaiser. It’s called EPIC, and generally, any doctor’s office or hospital on EPIC can see your records from other facilities that also use EPIC. So if you ever have to go somewhere other than Kaiser in an emergency, it’s likely they will still be able to see them and give you informed care.

    I also like that you pointed out that Kaiser is an insurance plan–the care facilities they have available are a function of their self-coverage.

    But you are going into this with eyes wide open and it sounds like you have made the best choice available for you and Jim. I wish there were more options out there and that they were more affordable, but I fear things will only continue to get increasingly limited from now on.

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    • WOah I didn’t know about EPIC, thank you for the education Maya. The po-dunk providers we were using with Blue Cross could never talk to one another. I’m glad that there is a system in place that can share records between Kaiser and other providers in the system.

      It’s interesting how Kaiser works with affiliated providers. Unlike Blue Cross, in which you’re on your own with those providers when it comes to scheduling, billing, and record transfers, Kaiser handles everything from member services. So for instance, a mammo re-take was scheduled through my Kaiser MD’s team with an affiliated hospital in Fort Collins. The facility tried to bill me directly, but I called Kaiser and they took care of it. That is the really nice part about using them, it feels like I have someone else who can handle these annoying details.

      I do wish there were more options too! In fact, our Kaiser renewal this year actually upped our deductible while reducing some types of coverage we don’t use. It wasn’t a deal-breaker but it made me wonder where we will be with Kaiser coverage in 5 years. I’ll keep you posted.

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