As travel nurses, we know the importance of having health insurance. Making a decision regarding travel nurse insurance is a tough decision, and a lot depends on your specific needs when it comes to your health.
So what do you do for travel nurse insurance? Really there are two options: using your travel nurse company insurance or getting your own. There are pros and cons to each, so let’s take a look.
Travel Nurse Insurance From Your Company
Most travel nurse companies these days offer travel nurse insurance. Some of the bigger travel nurse companies will work with providers like United, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Cigna. Some of the smaller companies may only work with smaller insurance companies that aren’t as well known and may not cover your preferred providers. If you make a decision to go with company-provided insurance, I suggest thoroughly researching which companies offer the insurance companies you prefer.
Pros of Travel Nurse Insurance From Your Company
1- Usually a good plan!
A good plan meaning with a reputable insurance company. It will likely provide you with a fairly moderate deductible and doctor’s office visits with preferred providers for a copay and may include free regular yearly physicals. You can be at ease knowing your bills shouldn’t unexpectedly be astronomical, assuming you use the preferred providers. If they have one, you can expect it to be similar to your staff job’s insurance plan.
2- One less thing to worry about!
It’s a set it and forget it kind of thing… a weekly withdrawal from your paycheck (or biweekly if you get paid as such) that you don’t even miss coming out of your paycheck. Getting your own insurance is usually a monthly lump sum. Even if the prices are comparable, it seems to hurt a little less coming from your paycheck weekly versus a lump sum! 😂
Cons of Travel Nurse Insurance From Your Company
1- May not be with your preferred providers or cover you across all 50 states
When discussing insurance with your recruiter, be sure to get down to the nitty-gritty! Speak to a benefits specialist if they have one so you can really get the low down. As I said, most of the bigger companies work with bigger name insurance companies like BCBS, Cigna, and United. But if you plan to try to stay mostly with your own doctors, you want to be sure they are covered by the insurance company, which may not be the case with the smaller insurance companies. Also, make sure your insurance is portable across all 50 states!
2 – It can be costly!
I suppose this may be due to the more short-natured coverage for travel nurses, but it certainly can be very pricey! I paid nearly $400-$450 a month with my company insurance! It isn’t cheap, even with the big companies! It was certainly more expensive than my coverage with my permanent staff job, where it maybe was around $200 a month. Definitely, something to think about in the budget realm!
3- Insurance gaps
This is probably one of the biggest cons. You may not be covered in between contracts and have insurance gaps. This is what I like to call insurance roulette and part of the “insurance game” (More details at the end of this article).
Travel nurse companies all seem to be different in regards to the timing of the travel nurse insurance. Sometimes your insurance will start on the 1st day of your contract, sometimes not until the 15th of the month. With some companies, your coverage will end on your last day; in some companies, you can finish out the month. Some companies allow up to two weeks off or longer in between contracts with coverage, assuming you will work with them again. Make sure you get the specifics of how your insurance works with your recruiter!
I say insurance roulette because you are just hoping and praying that you won’t need to use it if you do have a gap in insurance. Maybe most of the time, you are lucky, but it’s a risk. So buyer, beware!
4- Switching agencies
Personally speaking, I tend to switch around travel nurse companies. I go to which one may offer me the best contract at the location I want for the best money. Not all companies have the same contracts and at the same price! However, some people stick with one travel nurse company for the duration of their time as a travel nurse. This may make it a little easier when it comes to insurance to not have to switch insurance companies each time.
However, if you hop around companies like I do, it stinks. That means a whole new insurance company every few months and a whole new deductible each time! I have gotten the short end of the stick doing this a couple of times. I had to have a couple of procedures done in 1 year. I had to pay the full deductible out of pocket for both even though I had forked out the money that should have met my deductible for that year with the one plan! No fun.
So getting a new deductible every few months certainly makes it to where you have to pay more money out of pocket!
Getting Your Own Travel Nurse Insurance
The other option, of course, is to get your own travel nurse insurance. You can either go through a broker or purchase a plan through the marketplace at healthcare.gov or another entity like eHealth insurance. Brokers work with travel nurses to get the best plans and provide customer service along to help navigate your plan. Examples include US Health Group or The Healthy Insurance Dude. I have even done a more short-term approach, such as a sharing program, at times in between contracts. A sharing program is not an actual healthcare plan. You pay a monthly fee that goes to essentially a shared pool of money that can help cover your healthcare costs. Examples include Christian Healthcare Ministries or Medishare.
Shopping for your own travel nurse insurance can be a daunting task, and as stated, there are pros and cons.
Pros of Your Own Travel Nurse Insurance
1- No coverage gaps!
The BIGGEST pro of your own travel nurse insurance! You don’t have to worry about having any gaps in your insurance. So that means if you want to take 1, 2, or 6 months off in between contracts, you are still covered! If you want to live your best life and go live in Greece for a month like me, you are covered! 😂 (Although I have additional international insurance as well).
But you can rest easy when taking time off in between contracts. That was certainly a stressor for me as a travel nurse. I was always trying to plan doctors’ appointments and such within a certain time frame when I was covered. But now that I have my own insurance, I can relax a bit more.
2- Usually cheaper!
Usually, the plans come out a little cheaper than the travel nurse company-provided insurance. As I said, I was paying nearly $500 a month for insurance! Now I pay around $315 for both health and dental insurance. Not too shabby at all. Typically speaking, this option is cheaper, but you will have to shop around, and it depends on which specific health benefits you will need.
Cons of Your Own Travel Nurse Insurance
1- It may not be a comprehensive plan/more limited benefits
Speaking from my current experience, many things seem to have to be pre-approved or have to have a workaround in order to get coverage. I didn’t feel the need to get things pre-approved with company insurance. My doctor ordered something, and I got it done, and it was covered.
2- May be more out of pocket
Although the insurance is generally cheaper, that also leaves a lot of room to skimp benefits on. Deductibles may be higher, and it may not be the “copay” type plan you are used to.
I consider myself a healthy person with only basic needs of healthcare, fortunately. My doctors are “covered” under my insurance, so the insurance will pay some towards doctors’ visits. But it is not like a copay, so I was used to it. I have always had both a PCP and an OBGYN being a woman, but only 1 of my provider visits was covered. The other, I had to pay more out of pocket as I only got one wellness visit a year. So as much as I have enjoyed having to not worry about gaps in coverage, I sure do miss those copays!
3- Lump sum withdrawal versus weekly
Somehow getting money drawn out weekly versus a lump sum makes it seem to hurt less in the bank account department, even if it is cheaper! 😂 It comes down to just making the budget for it!
Now are you utterly confused about which option to choose? That makes two of us! 😂 As a person who has done both, I don’t have a strong conviction for either option, honestly. I think it’s just a matter of trial and error for you to see what works best for you!
Currently, I have my own insurance right now. I do love the fact that I don’t have to worry about gaps in insurance and that it is significantly cheaper than the company’s insurance. However, I feel like I have to pay more out of pocket for things such as regular doctors’ office visits or bloodwork, etc. Luckily this is not often, just yearly, but still!
So again may just come down to trial and error for you. However, it also depends on your specific health needs and the time you plan on taking off between contracts. If you use the insurance often for multiple doctor visits, it may be worth it to do the company insurance. However, you just have to worry about consistency: It works best if you stay with the same company and only have a limited time off in between contracts.
Personally speaking, I use multiple different companies and don’t like being limited to, say, only two weeks off in between contracts! Maybe they will come up with a middle-ground option! But in the meantime, for my lifestyle, I prefer getting my own insurance.
The Insurance Game
As promised, I will discuss a little of the “insurance game” and some of my insider tips! This is for if you choose to take company insurance.
So the “insurance game” is basically just trying to make the most of your company insurance during the actual time you are covered. As a nurse, I value maintaining established relationships with my regular doctors. I have had them for years, and if I ever had to have anything done, I want to be home where I know which doctors I want to use. So here’s where it gets tricky!
You want to be sure to get really clear with your recruiter regarding the start and end of your coverage. Does it start on either the 15th or 30th of the month? Is it the 1st day of the contract? Somewhere in between? When does it end? Sometimes it ends on the last day of your contract; sometimes, you can finish out the month.
Insurance Start Dates
- If it starts on either the 15th/30th or something to that effect, it will likely end on the 15th or 30th AFTER your contract. So you’ve got a little time to scoot home and get your regular doctor’s office visits in before coverage needs.
- If it starts on the 1st day, it may very likely end on the last day of the contract (unless you sign up for another contract with the company). If it’s a time I need to get something done like an eye appointment, dentist, or yearly checkup, I try to take some time off in the middle of the contract and go home and get that done. It kinda stinks going home mostly for that, but BONUS, you get to go home! 🙂
Insurance End Dates
- If it ends on the last day of your contract, you definitely want to see if you can squeeze time off in the middle of your contract to go home and get doctors’ appointments done.
- If it ends at the end of the month, you have got some time!
So let’s say your contract ends on the 30th of the month, and your insurance runs out at the end of the month, the 31st. Well, that’s not very much time or good use of your insurance!
If I am interested in extending, I will extend for whatever time I can, but at least until the beginning of the next month. So let’s say you end the 5th, then you have the whole rest of the month to get your insurance benefits! More time off in between for you, and you still have coverage! You can go home and get whatever you need done!
Isn’t the insurance game FUN?! 😂
Prescription PRO tips:
- Keep all your prescriptions at something very generic that is transferrable. I usually use Walmart or Walgreens, something that usually every major city has. Makes it WAY easier to transfer prescriptions
- If you have refills on prescriptions and can get them early, do so before your contract/coverage ends. Same with eye contacts. I’ll go ahead and refill early before my prescription runs out so I can delay the need for regular eye appointments if I am not close to home.
- Push for 90-day supplies with your prescriptions!
- Walmart has quite a few selections of $4 prescriptions; check them out!
Good luck in the insurance games, and may the odds ever be in your favor! ✌️
We hope you found this article on travel nurse insurance and tips on using company insurance or getting your own helpful. Do you have any tips on travel nurse insurance to share with fellow travel nurses? Comment them below.