Health insurance for vagabonds?
January 20, 2012 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Health insurance for vagabonds? (How can I purchase health insurance when I'm in between fixed addresses/states?)

Call it unfortunate timing. My New York COBRA expires at the end of the month. For the past six years, I've been living in New York City, but at the end of December I let my New York apartment go and have returned, at least temporarily, to the state where I grew up. My things are in storage in New York, and the USPS is forwarding mail to my parents' house, where I am staying.

Basically, I need to purchase health insurance, but I'm unsure whether it would be appropriate (or even legal) to represent myself as a resident of New York. It's entirely possible that I'll return there in a few months, though it's also entirely possible that I won't. I can produce things like utility bills and other 'proofs of address' for New York up through the end of December—and I'm not signing a lease, taking on utility bills, or doing any other kinds of official moving-in type things here—but I feel uneasy about repping myself as a New York resident, in case it could cause denial of major claims, should they occur. I am no longer on a lease in New York. On the other hand, I don't really feel like a "resident" here, either. I feel like someone on an extended trip. The idea is that I'm just here temporarily until I figure out what is next.

For what it's worth, the state I'm in now is Virginia. I'm a sole proprietor (file a schedule C on my taxes). I'll probably figure out where I'm living permanently within the next three to six months, but I don't want to be uninsured during that time. I'm most concerned about being covered for catastrophic costs in the case of a horrible accident or similar, though I'd like to be on a decent, not simply bare-bones plan if possible.

I'm investigating sole-proprietor options for New York residents, and may apply to one, but am feeling uneasy about it. Does anyone have insight into the legal issues, or advice? Is there any kind of insurance that doesn't 'care' where you live? Surely there has to be some way I can get myself covered, either by a New York plan, a Virginia plan, or some other off-the-wall option?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd call a local health insurance broker and ask his advice. All you're really interested in is what prospective health carriers want, and he'd be in a better position to know that than any of us will.

Also, New York health insurance premiums tend to be quite a bit more expenses than premiums in other states, so there's that to think about too.
posted by valkyryn at 9:07 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are covered by an employer's group plan under COBRA, it's valid wherever you may live even though the employer is in some other state. My I know people who moved to the Seattle area recently and they're still on their COBRA plan from another state until their new jobs' insurance kicks in. I have also worked for an employer with headquarters in another state and that wasn't a problem even though the insurer was based in the headquarters state rather than in Washington. (A little inconvenient to find in-network doctors, but that was the only thing.)
posted by kindall at 9:16 AM on January 20, 2012

I don't see the answer to your question at Freelancers Union, but I think they administer third-party health insurance plans for freelancers in many kinds of work. When I had a bunch of questions about their health insurance in 2010, they were good about answering my emails. (I didn't end up purchasing "their" insurance though, so can't speak to that end.)

Depending on what you do--I assume you are employed from your description--do you consider your job at least partly NY-based? For example, do you give potential clients references from past clients in NY, or get mail there, or advertise there? If any of those are true, even though you don't reside there currently, perhaps an insurer would consider you insurable as a New York business owner if not resident.
posted by homelystar at 9:18 AM on January 20, 2012

I don't know how to help you, but also consider that even if you end up using a NY address for your insurance but being somewhere else for a lot of the time, there might not be in-network doctors in the other state. Make sure that whatever insurance you get will either have nation-wide in-network doctors, or has a policy that if no in-network doctors are withing X-miles of you, then you can go to any doctor, or make sure that it will still be financially reasonable for you to visit out of network doctors - find out how much those visits cost compared to in-network NY doctors.
posted by at 9:34 AM on January 20, 2012

I would think that you would want the insurance to cover you in Virginia (by being in network with local doctors, etc). I would call an independent insurance agent and ask about your options if you happen to move in 6 months. Surely there would be national companies (like BCBS or United Health Care) that would allow you to change networks if you move to another state (although it would probably change your premiums as well). I'd say the best thing to do would be to find those answers from the various insurance companies you are considering...that's where an independent agent can help you narrow down the information but I would verify it yourself just to make sure.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:46 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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