One of the most frequently asked questions from nurses considering traveling is, "What am I going to do about health insurance?"
Choosing a health insurance plan can be challenging to navigate. Comparing costs, coverage, and options can be overwhelming. Travel nurses should understand all options when choosing the plan that's best for them. Here are some things to consider when deciding on which health insurance to get as a travel nurse.
What Are the Options for Health Insurance as a Travel Nurse?
There are two main options for travel nurses to choose from:
- Agency-provided health insurance
- Individual (private) health insurance
Each option has its pros and cons. Let's discuss them.
1. Agency-Provided Health Insurance
Many travel nursing agencies offer health insurance to their nurses. For example, Trusted Health offers medical, dental, and vision coverage that's effective on day one of your assignment. Choosing insurance provided by your agency means you don't have to worry about finding your own coverage or deal with the hassle of shopping around.
However, most agencies only cover nurses during their contracts. If you work with multiple travel nursing agencies, simultaneously navigating health insurance can be complicated and overwhelming. Nurses who change agencies often or choose to take extended periods off between contracts may want to consider another option for insurance.
"If you use health insurance from your agency, take into consideration that you'll lose it when you're not on contract. The agency may offer you COBRA, but those fees are pretty costly," Meisha Amia, MSN, RN, a travel nurse and author of The Bedside Boss: From Scrubs to Six Figures, tells Trusted.
"When I passed out in my patient's room, I had insurance through my agency. When I lost my contract, I lost my insurance. Big lesson learned!”
When considering opting-in to your travel nursing agency's health insurance benefit, make sure you know:
- The coverage provided
- The exact start date of your coverage
- The exact end date of your coverage
- If coverage is provided between contracts
If your next contract is with Trusted, we offer a pre-pay option, so you're covered through your gap period. Trusted has also committed to providing a month of coverage between your contracts.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives employees in certain situations, called qualifying events, the right to pay premiums for and keep group health insurance.
These situations include:
- Reduction in work hours
- Loss of job
Although it can be expensive, COBRA is an option for health insurance coverage between contracts. You have 60 days after you lose your benefits to elect to pay for COBRA coverage. Even if you enroll on Day 60, your coverage is retroactive to Day 1. You then have 45 days to pay the premium.
Note that COBRA is a short-term solution and may only last 18, 29, or 36 months depending on the qualifying event. You can learn more about COBRA here.
2. Individual (Private) Insurance
Individual or private health insurance is a great option for many travel nurses. These plans offer flexibility, and there are no gaps in coverage. If you decide to take a few months off, you won't need to worry about losing your health insurance before taking another assignment.
Note that there are different types of private health insurance plans.
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
PPO plans give you a network of preferred healthcare providers to choose from. You can visit any in-network provider without requiring a referral from a primary care physician (PCP).
If you use in-network providers, the plan will cover a portion of your medical expenses. If you use out-of-network providers, your copay will be higher. You may need to meet an annual deductible before the insurance company starts coverage.
PPO plans may be for you if:
- You're looking for your insurance company to cover a portion of out-of-network claims
- You don't want to get referrals before visiting a specialist
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
With HMO plans, you choose a Primary Care Provider (PCP) who will take care of most of your needs. If you need a specialist, you'll need a referral from your PCP. Your PCP will refer you to a provider within the HMO network. If you choose a provider outside of the network, you'll be responsible for all costs.
HMO plans may be for you if:
- You're seeking to pay a lower premium
- You want a plan without a deductible
- You don't mind paying out-of-pocket costs
- You need preventative care services
Point of Service (POS)
POS plans combine features of HMO and PPO plans. Your PCP will give your referrals, but you have more access to out-of-network providers. Access to out-of-network providers is more expensive, but depending on your plan, services performed by your PCP may not have a deductible, and preventive care benefits are usually included.
POS plans may be for you if:
- You don't mind coordinating your care through your PCP
- Your preferred provider is in the network
Meisha Amia states, “I recommend going through an independent carrier with the lowest deductible you can afford. My favorite tool is ehealthinsurance. They have short term plans for gaps between contracts or long-term enrollment options for individuals and families. ”
Things to Consider When Choosing Health Insurance
- Take your time and carefully weigh each option
- Understand what your agency offers in terms of benefits and reimbursements
- Decided what is best for you and your family
- Do you need to cover your spouse or dependents?
- Will you work with one agency or multiple agencies?
- Will you take off time between assignments?
- How much coverage do you need? (factor in any health or medical concerns)
Take the time to research insurance providers and speak with an enrollment counselor to explain your medical and health concerns and circumstances. Then, compare your options and make the best decision for your needs!
Want Someone to Take Care of Health Insurance for You?
If you want to take the guesswork and research out of the equation, let Trusted take care of your health insurance needs. As mentioned above, Trusted offers medical, dental, and vision coverage from the first day of your assignment; and, they offer a pre-pay option, so you're covered through your gap period (including up to 30 days between contracts).
Create a free Trusted profile to get started!