Sometimes it may seem like all the company benefits are really the same. That some companies are just better at coming up with a more creative marketing strategy to make them look more attractive. (Ahem …”Free housing!”.. “Paid time off!”) But when it comes to health insurance, companies actually can vary a lot! Knowing what you want and need can help you narrow down what company is right for you.
As a travel nurse, you have three health insurance options:
- Taking the company insurance
- Finding your own insurance
- Not have health insurance at all
And -like most things in life- there are pros and cons for each.
Taking your company’s insurance
- Most of the time, taking the company insurance is going to be easier than finding your own. Usually, you can just sign a piece of paper and your health insurance will be set up for you. This saves you the hassle of trying to research and apply for all the alternative health insurance options.
- The cost of company insurance is usually cheaper than getting insurance on your own. This is because many recruitment companies will pay for a portion of your insurance costs.
- Company insurance often has better coverage than the insurance you can find on your own. And since you’re signing up for insurance with each new contract, it’s ensured that you will be covered no matter which state you are currently working in.
- If you take different contracts through different companies then you’ll need to keep switching your health insurance. Although this isn’t hard to do, it may result in gaps in your coverage. This is because not all health insurance companies start their coverage on day 1. Many don’t kick in until after 30 days. Which would require you to find gap insurance for the periods between your contracts AND while you are waiting for your new plan to take effect. Or if you don’t use a gap insurance you never know when *knock on wood* things we don’t think about could happen where you NEED insurance. Not a great feeling to not have coverage.
- Your deductibles will reset many times a year when you need to switch between companies.
- Sometimes the unpredictable happens and a contract can be canceled. If this happens, it could leave you with an unexpected time of no insurance at all.
- If you choose to stick with one recruitment company just to avoid switching insurances and preventing gaps, then you are:
- Losing your ability to compare different pay packages from different recruitment companies to get the best deal.
- Limiting the number of contracts that are available to choose from. (Because some hospitals will only use specific travel healthcare agencies.)
Finding your own insurance
- When you choose to get your own health insurance, it means that you will be covered all-year-round, no gaps. Especially for us travel nurses, we know what the consequences of not having health insurance can be. Knowing that we don’t ever have to worry about gaps. Ahhh sweet peace of mind.
- Freedom! Go to Bali for three months in between assignments if you want to. If you take the company insurance then you are only covered while you are on an assignment. But if you have your own insurance then you don’t have to worry about rushing into another contract right away to maintain your benefits.
- Some recruitment companies will actually pay you more if you find your own health insurance rather than using theirs. You can then use the extra money to pay for your own insurance, which can be a huge help since health insurance is quite expensive.
- Since many recruitment companies will pay a portion of your health insurance if you go use their coverage, while on assignment, it is generally more expensive to find your own. (Not always though!)
- Not all insurance companies will cover you in all 50 states. Since we are travelers, we need our health insurance to travel with us. This limits our options for insurance that we can find on our own.
Which is cheaper?
This one is tricky. Because it really depends on the company. Being informed will help you narrow down the options.
Questions to ask your recruiter:
- How much will their insurance cost YOU? In general, your portion of the company insurance will be between $45-$75 a week out of your pay.
- IF they will tell you (many recruiters actually don’t know) how much their insurance costs you PLUS the company portion. If you are using Cobra as gap insurance, then this total (+2% processing fee) is how much you would have to pay in between assignments.
- Find out if the company will pay you more if you have your own insurance. If so, you can use this extra pay to put towards your own insurance costs, making your own insurance much cheaper. This could be around $200 dollars a month.
Some recruitment companies offer you the choice to keep their insurance for two weeks or up to 30 days after a contract is finished in order to fill gaps between assignments. As long as you have your next assignment lined up with them. During this time, they may keep paying a portion of your insurance. However, they will still charge you your portion of the health insurance. You will just have that deducted from your paychecks when you start your next assignment.
Know how you travel. ask yourself how many months out of the year you might need Cobra. (Where you would be paying your portion + the companies portion of the insurance.) So you can estimate your total yearly insurance cost and compare it to the other options.
Know what level of coverage you need. Many companies will let you choose between a few different coverage plans. Do you just need catastrophe insurance? Or do you make regular doctor visits and/or have prescriptions? Make sure you ask for a quote based on the plan you need, otherwise you might just be quoted for the cheapest plan.
One good resource for looking up a rough starting point to compare insurance prices is ValuePenguin. Keep in mind, health insurance is expensive no matter where you get it but it’s good to know where your expectations should lie so that you can make informed decisions. According to the Affordable Care Act, the average individual pays between $300-$500 per month for health insurance.
Are there insurance options that cover all 50 states?
Yes! There are actually some really cool alternative health insurance options for travel nurses.
- Many HealthShare options cover travelers; I personally like Liberty HealthShare!
- Some private health insurance brokers have options for travelers.
- The Affordable Care Act does not cover you in all states. But having the ACA for backup/catastrophic insurance while using telephone doctors as a supplement can be an amazing option for us.
While we may not be able to tell you exactly which option is best for you; there really are so many choices out there. We are all individuals with our own unique needs and situations. But we will keep providing you the information and resources needed to be educated and empowered.
Cheers to healthcare workers being informed about their healthcare,