When hospitals across the country started having nursing shortages, they started hiring nurses on a contract basis. These contract employment opportunities were great for the wages that they can receive, but in most cases these contracts came without any additional benefits including health insurance.
Do travel nurses need health insurance? Of course they do, just like everyone else!
Nurses may take care of the sick, but they themselves are also just as likely to get sick. Having a healthcare plan that covers their needs while traveling from assignment to assignment, through out the country, is a must.
If you are a travel Nurse or want to become one, you may be wondering what health insurance is available and does it fit your needs. Health insurance for travel nurses is oftentimes a complicated consideration. When you’re on the road and relocating multiple times a year, you need reliable health insurance without any gaps in coverage, and that isn't going to cost you a fortune.
What is the best health insurance options for travel nurses?
There are basically two options to choose from for health insurance:
Agency health insurance - (which is not always available) or Private health insurance - (which may have limitation for enrollment). Most travel nurses are contracted through agencies, so you first have to decide whether you choose coverage through the agency, if available or find your own private health insurance.
When choosing which to choose you have to remember If you’re not completely satisfied with the health insurance coverage your agency uses or you just feel the pros of private health insurance outweigh the cons, look no further! There are PPO insurance policies you can choose from that let you travel and use out-of network providers, unlike HMO policies that won't let you seek care outside the network.
There are many companies to choose from, such as big names like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, United Healthcare, or Aetna, to name a few. If you are seeking a PPO and are wanting health coverage your coverage on the ACA Marketplace®, they only offer an HMO as an option
Pros & Cons of Agency Insurance
Agency health insurance plans can be a quick solution for your healthcare needs, but it’s not without some disadvantages.
Pros - The number one advantage of going with the agency’s health insurance plan is that you avoid the hassle of finding a healthcare plan. Agencies usually have a default provider and a standard coverage, so there aren’t many choices available.
Cons - The problem with going with your agency’s health insurance is that it may only be valid when you’re on the job. This would create gaps in your coverage when you’re not on an assignment. You don’t want to be left without coverage for days, weeks or months in between contracts. Also, by taking coverage from only one agency, you are covered if you’re working for another agency. This limits your ability to use multiple agencies for the best assignments. If you do stick to one agency, you may not make as much money as you can by working for multiple agencies. Much like other job-linked health insurance plans, you only have coverage as long as you’re working and as soon as you’re terminated, your coverage ends, which can be stressful.
Pros & Cons of Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance may provide more benefits for your healthcare than the options offered through an agency. Getting private insurance on your own gives you the freedom to choose the company and plan that you want. However, that doesn’t mean it’s without some disadvantages.
Pros - Private health insurance plans will cover you throughout the year, no matter if you’re on the job or not. This saves you from any potential pitfalls due to the limits of agency health insurance coverage. Another benefit is that you can register and work with several agencies. You will have coverage regardless of which agency’s assignment you’re on. This means you can earn more money and work every week if you wish, without worrying about not having insurance. Lastly, you have the freedom to find and choose a plan that meets your needs. While some agency plans might provide coverage while you travel from place to place, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best option for you. With your own private insurance provider, you can choose your own plan that you know is reliable. Cons - Many private health insurance plans are expensive. To keep monthly premiums low, you will have to pay a higher deductible along with higher out-of-pocket expenses. To keep out-of-pocket expenses low, your monthly premiums are higher. Another con you need to consider is the over-all coverage. Remember, you’re a travel nurse traveling through different states, so you need coverage everywhere. Not all private health insurance plans provide you this option. PPO vs. HMO for Travel Nurses When electing for private health insurance as a travel nurse, you’ll have to choose between a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) or an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization). You should go for a PPO as it has a bigger network that is expanded in many states. You’ll be able to find an in-network health practitioner everywhere you go. In comparison, an HMO uses a Primary Care Physician (PCP) that refers you to specialists. That means you’ll have to change PCPs often or simply pay more as you travel and consult with doctors outside of their network. Conclusion Health insurance while traveling is absolutely essential because you never know when you might need medical help. The best health insurance for travel nurses is the one that provides the best coverage without any gaps and fits your budget.