By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
One question I get from coworkers or soon to be travelers is how we handle insurance as healthcare travelers. Healthcare is a complicated situation everywhere in our country, so it can often be confusing and frustrating to navigate this arena if you are coming from a permanent job with great benefits and insurance coverage.
My first piece of advice would be to realize that regardless of what you choose, insurance costs as a travel nurse will most likely be higher than your costs at a permanent position. Whether you opt for private or company insurance I have found my paycheck deductions are more than what I paid bi-weekly at a permanent job. This is just one of those expenses that come along with working as a traveler, so it is best to be aware ahead of time.
There are some great in-depth resources out there going into the nitty-gritty of how insurance works. I myself am not an insurance expert, so I will simply share my experiences from shopping around and give a quick overview of each option to help jump-start your search for the best plan for you and your family.
Option 1: Company Insurance
Every travel nurse agency will have some sort of healthcare coverage. Most of them try to have a plan that offers decent nationwide coverage. In addition, I have seen some agencies opting to have levels of plans–from catastrophic insurance all the way up to full coverage for anything you might need.
Most companies should be willing to give you a benefits overview before you actually sign with them. Cost of insurance affects your weekly take-home pay, so it is helpful to know what their benefits will run when you are comparing pay packages between companies.
Another question to address when asking about company insurance is their coverage between contracts. Some companies will cover you for several weeks between jobs if you are signing on to an additional contract with them afterward. If this is not the case, you would need to read up on how COBRA works in the event that you take some time off and need insurance in between jobs.
Option 2: Marketplace Coverage
If you are needing more all-inclusive insurance but you do not want to worry about lapses or dealing with COBRA, I suggest buying a plan directly from the Healthcare Marketplace. These plans will all be ACA compliant and cover pre-existing conditions as well.
Marketplace coverage costs will vary from state to state, but can also be cheaper for travelers since we have lower taxable income. Be sure to check if you are eligible for a reduced rate based on your taxed income rate.
Option 3: Private Insurance
Part of the Affordable Care Act included stipulations about what all employer insurance was required to cover. There are minimum standards your company has to meet which can drive the cost of insurance up to cover services you may or may not need.
In the meantime, there are still health insurance companies selling private insurance that does not meet all the requirements of the ACA. Previously there was a fine if you opted for insurance that did not meet these minimums, but that fine has since been repealed.
Private insurance maybe a little more expensive than company insurance and may not have as great of coverage. However, if you take multiple months off per year or want the flexibility to switch between companies as you choose, this may be a good option for you. You are essentially paying for the peace of mind to know that your insurance is completely controlled by you if you opt for private insurance.
Option 4: Health Sharing Plans
There is a whole list of requirements I could go into regarding health sharing plans but the basis is fairly simple. These are large group plans where each member pays into a pool of money which is then used to pay for medical services for members. Typically the cost is less than traditional insurance but you may be limited on services if you have pre-existing conditions when you sign up.
Two of the larger companies I have heard of are Liberty Healthshare and Medishare. Their websites provide a lot of helpful information and they have representatives that can call you to answer questions as needed.
So How Do I Choose?
Choosing the right insurance plan is a very personal decision. Depending on if you have current health needs, regular prescriptions or are planning to get pregnant will affect what you need in terms of coverage.
My best advice is to compare insurance between your top two companies along with marketplace insurance to start. From there you can determine if your budget and needs would be better suited to a less common option like health sharing or off-market plans.
While health insurance is one of the less fun aspects to deal with as a traveler, feeling confident in your choices and coverage is key to feeling less stressed about taking the leap into travel nursing. As always: research, ask questions, and reach out to other travelers if you aren’t sure where to start!
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
- Agency Reviews
- Ask The Expert
- Continuing Education
- EMR Conversions
- First-Time Traveler
- For A Laugh
- Healthcare Roundup
- Hot Markets
- Industry Trends
- Market Data
- Nurse Contributor
- Take A Break
- Top 10
- Traveler Tips
- Weekly Polls
- Your Photos
- Your Stories