One of the concerns I frequently see from older people thinking about moving off grid is how they will access doctors and drugs when necessary. For those of us the live off the grid, there are actually quite a few options for healthcare. This is what most homesteaders and self-sufficient types do for health insurance in the United States.
Many people homesteading or off grid in the US are eligible for government provided healthcare in some form, as self sufficiency allows for comfortable living on a lower income. Others prefer alternative services such as PCMs, Faith-Based Healthcare, HPDS + HSA, or alternative medicine providers.
Don’t just assume that you need to purchase yourself an typical market health care plan, or that you have to go without healthcare if you live off grid. Being self-sufficient gives you a lot of options. I’ll go more in depth on available healthcare plans for homesteaders in the sections below.
Medicaid, Medicare, and VA Benefits
From what I’ve seen, probably the majority of people who live partially or entirely off the grid survive — independent from the system to some degree — typically stick with government provided healthcare plans. This probably is for one of two reasons —
- They already fall in that bracket
- They aren’t interested in drugs and doctors beyond emergencies
Even if you make too much money now to be covered by government plans, consider that your income might go down the longer you live off the grid. Some people may even want to consider working for barter instead of pay, to lower their overall income to make sure they are covered..
The more that you support yourself from your land, the more options you regarding how much you choose to make. As well as what type of health care expenses you choose to take on, if any.
For more info on living with little cash income, check out my previous blog —
Benefits from Work
Another chunk of homesteaders choose to commute to work, or decide to work a telecommuting job that provides benefits through their employer. I wont say much about this here, since I think everyone understands how this works.
If you are looking to work from home or develop an off grid business, these two articles will be a big help to you —
Affordable Care Act (ACA) Plans
Well, who knows where these will be in the next 5–10 years, but at the time of writing, government subsidized “market” healthcare plans are available for purchase from November 1st to December 15th.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, average ACA premiums will range between $328 – $481 per month in 2021.
Because of the government support, they often end up being cheaper than a traditional healthcare plan that you buy directly from insurance companies as an individual. Still, prices vary drastically from person to person, income level to income level, how offensive of a plane you choose and even from state to state.
Once again, the less monetary income you make, the less you have to pay, deciding limit your taxable income to certain amount can make a difference in cost if you have that option.
Primary Care Membership (PCM) / “Concierge Medicine”
One really attractive option for healthcare is the primary care membership, which is sometimes called “concierge medicine” or “direct primary care.”
This form of healthcare is provided in the form of a flat monthly membership fee paid directly to your clinic of choice. Local clinics that provide PCM services can be found all over the United States
One big benefit of this model is that doctors and medical staff aren’t paid more the sicker you are. Generally, all the services the clinic provides is available to you at just the cost of the membership. You pay no additional fees to see a doctor. Meaning, doctors have monetary incentive to keep you healthy and not using their services. A big win over the current system in my opinion.
While PCMs are often marketed as a “premium” option, in fact plans can be as low as $70/mo, making them potentially very affordable.
One down side is the PCMs generally don’t cover surgery, hospital stays, major injury, or specialist care which would need to be covered other insurance you may have, or a high-deductible health plan we will discuss later.
Faith-Based Healthcare / Health-Sharing Plans
Another interesting option for off grid health care are faith-based or health-sharing plans.
This form of plan is basically the credit union of health insurance. Instead of being run by a for-profit company, FBH providers are typically non-profit and or member owned organizations. Fees go towards a common pool, used to pay member expenses.
Generally, benefits are about the same as traditional healthcare, but at lower overall cost. However, some don’t provide some common services such as substance abuse or birth control in line with their organization’s religious beliefs. They also negotiate to lower treatment costs with healthcare providers.
Medi-Share is one of the largest providers of FBH plans in the United States, although there are many smaller local plans as well in many areas.
High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) + Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
For healthy individuals that don’t want or need to avail themselves of western medicine may opt to go for the HDHP + HSA combo, which is also often used by very wealthy families.
Essentially, with this mode of coverage, you will pay the costs of typical healthcare directly — with all the expense and freedom of choice that comes with paying cash. But, after a certain point — usually around $6,000 – $10,000 — all you expenses are paid, to cover cases of accidents or serious health problems.
Health Savings Plans are special tax-exempt bank accounts when the money is used for medical expenses. Typically, you would pay in to this each paycheck to build up a bank to cover medical expenses.
The good part of HSA that if you don’t use the money, you still get to keep it. And, you can save money on taxes, which is why they are popular among high income earners.
To compliment this you would typically also purchase a specialized high-deductible health plan, which would cover costs above a certain point. The higher the deductible, the less you pay monthly, but the more you pay if you end up getting a big hospital bill.
While not health insurance per say, it is worth considering how you take care of yourself, and alternative healthcare providers.
When using plans with high deductibles and or HSAs, it is worth considering treatment from experts that are not part of the typical insurance system, including —
- Holistic Medicine Practitioners
- Herbalistic or Traditional Medicine
- Chinese Traditional Medicine Practitioners
While not everyone is convinced about the effectiveness of such disciplines, I personally know many people that swear by them.
And, since they often are not approved by insurance providers, they tend to offer there services at a reasonable price. If you can find an effective alternative medical practitioner near you it may just save your body and your wallet.
One way to reduce heath care costs is to learn to take care of yourself.
At the very least, off gridders and homesteaders should have a basic working knowledge of first aid. Living out of the city means you and your family may be the only first response’s available to you in an emergency.
Taking responsibility for more mundane elements of your health can also make a huge difference. Eating right, exercise, catching illnesses early, use of herbs to heal, and stress management all play a huge part in avoiding the hospital, especially later in life.
And, the homestead is the perfect place to get plenty of all of those things in abundance.