How to Navigate Health Insurance for Travel Nurses

The importance of having health insurance coverage is paramount for everyone – especially travel nurses. However, most travel nurses depend solely on their employers for health insurance coverage. Unlike traditional nurses, travel nurses often change from agency to agency, making keeping health insurance rather complicated. 

The Basics of Travel Nurse Insurance

Most travel nurses believe they won’t be eligible for health care coverage because they travel all the time. Not to mention, due to the nature of their work, switching employers is a common practice. Besides, they’re often looked at as contract or temporary workers, rather than full-time employees. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most travel nurses are eligible to receive health insurance coverage under their agency’s contracts. Not to mention, most of the time, these health insurance plans cover dental and vision as well. 

Do Travel Nurses Get Health Insurance? 

They do. However, it depends. The majority of nursing agencies do offer health insurance for travel nurses. But, most of the time, coverage is only available when you’re on assignment. Reading the start and end dates of your coverage before you sign any contract is crucial to ensure you understand the extent of your health insurance coverage under the agency’s specific plan.

Pros & Cons of Choosing the Agency’s Health Insurance Policy

There are always two sides to a travel nursing agency healthcare coverage offering. Just as they’re with any other company that offers health plan coverage for their employees. 

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of choosing the agency’s health insurance policy.

Pros

  • The travel nursing agency makes the process of setting up your health insurance policy without you having to do all the work.
  • Often, the agency’s health insurance plan is more affordable than finding private insurance on your own. Most of the time, agencies cover some, if not all, of the cost.
  • Usually, the agency’s insurance plan offers better coverage than external solutions. 

Cons

  • Often, gaps in coverage are common. Not all agencies’ health insurances start right away.
  • Most travel nursing agency insurances only cover you while you’re on assignment. Your coverage depends entirely on your employment.
  • When working with multiple agencies, your health insurance deductible thresholds might change.

Pros & Cons of Choosing a Private Health Insurance Policy

Like any other employee, travel nurses have the option to decline coverage through the agency and seek their coverage through a private policy. Similarly to choosing the agency’s plan, there are some ups and downs of taking private insurance coverage. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of preferring a private health insurance policy as a travel nurse. 

Pros

  • There won’t be any gaps in coverage. 
  • It provides greater flexibility and personalization to meet your healthcare needs. 
  • It allows you to work with as many agencies as you want without worrying about deductibles. 

Cons

  • Private insurance policies are often more expensive. You’ll have to pay for the policy on its fullest.
  • You’ll have to do the research and the enrolling process by yourself. 
  • Might not provide the same coverage or benefits as the agency’s insurance policy. Often, it will be less.

Travel Nurse Insurance Options

Once you’ve chosen between the agency’s health plan or private insurance, it’s time to analyze the different options available. Keep in mind that these will change based on the type of health insurance plans your agency offers. 

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

With this plan, you have access to a network of preferred healthcare providers chosen by the insurance company. Choose this type of plan if you’re expecting to see specialists often and if you plan to stay at the same location for quite some time. 

  • The network of providers is only local. 
  • In-Network providers are usually covered entirely.
  • Out-of-network providers are still available at a higher co-pay rate.

PPO for Travel Workers

Similarly to the previous plan, but with a broader network of providers. Choose this type of policy if you know you’ll be moving across different states. 

  • The network of providers expands over several states.
  • You’ll have to check the different providers in each state. 

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

With this plan, you must choose a Primary Care Physician (PCP). To see any specialist, you’ll need a referral from your PCP. Choose this style of plans if you already have a PCP or primary healthcare provider. 

  • Referrals must be within your HMO network. 
  • You’ll have to pay for all the costs if you use an out-of-network provider. 
  • Medical emergencies may be covered whether providers are in-network or not. 

Online PPO plans, HMO plans require a primary healthcare provider, which can only be local.

Point of Service (POS)

Consider this a hybrid plan, including some aspects of an HMO and some of the PPO policy. With this type of policy, you still need a Primary Care Physician, but your out-of-network providers are more affordable. 

  • Access to a bigger network than HMOs, but smaller than PPOs. 
  • Visits to out-of-network providers are partially covered. 
  • Often have high deductibles and premiums. 

Maintaining Your Travel Nurse Insurance Policy 

When it comes to choosing healthcare coverage as a travel nurse, there are many questions. What will it cover? Will my insurance stop working if I’m on vacation? What happens if I switch travel nursing agencies? Can I keep my insurance after my assignment is completed? These are all valid questions you should pose to the agency you’re considering before signing any agreement. 

Use COBRA

However, in most cases, whether you’re a travel nurse or a contract employee with benefits, know that leaving or changing jobs is a qualifying event for you to be open to purchase or seek health insurance again. 

All of this is thanks to COBRA, The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Under this federal health insurance program, eligible employees and their dependents can continue the benefits of existing health insurance coverage if they lose their job.

In almost all cases, whether you willingly or involuntarily leave a job, which means your benefits are terminated, you’re eligible for COBRA coverage. The best part? In the majority of the cases, you’ll be able to purchase the same health coverage plan at your employee’s group rate. Under COBRA, you can continue this type of coverage for up to 18 months, or over, if you qualify. 

How to Apply for COBRA

If you have a qualifying event in your career, meaning you voluntarily left an agency or you’re terminated, you have time to file for COBRA coverage. 

  1. Ask your employer to notify their plan administrators within 30 days of your departure. 
  2. Wait up to 14 days to receive an election or qualifying notice from your plan administrator. 
  3. You have up to 60 days to file all paperwork and send it back to the administrator. 
  4. Then, you have 45 days to pay the initial premium. 

Of course, all of this applies when you choose to accept the agency’s health insurance plan in the first place. If you decided to use private insurance instead, remember that you’re responsible for the payments, whether you’re employed or not.

What to Consider When Looking for the Right Travel Nurse Insurance Plan

Choosing the right travel nurse insurance plan is a personal decision. You have to consider your current health needs, the type of medications and prescriptions you require, your family-planning schedule, and so forth. 

Here are some things to consider when choosing the right one.

  • When does coverage starts? Some travel nursing agencies offer coverage from day one, while others have a more extended waiting period.
  • What are the premiums and copays? Make sure you’re able to negotiate or find the lowest premiums and co-pay options possible. 
  • Are dental and visual coverage included? Having a more comprehensive plan will be more beneficial and cheaper in the long run. 
  • What about prescription medication coverage? If you need regular prescriptions, ask about the out-of-pocket cost for prescriptions under the various plans they offer. 
  • Can you get coverage between jobs? Even if you don’t switch agencies, ask about what happens when you’re on vacation or not on an assignment. Some travel nursing agencies will extend your coverage during your time off. 

Want to Learn More about Travel Nurse Insurance?

Stability Healthcare is an industry leader in travel nursing. Our outstanding benefits include day-1 premium insurance, paid-time-off, and competitive pay. Visit our benefits page to learn more about our packages. If you still have questions, contact our representatives. They are always available to help you start a fascinating career in the travel nursing field. 

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