Should travel nurses take their company’s insurance?

Learn travel healthcare like a from fellow travelers (unbiased and honest)

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:

  1. Taking the company insurance
  2. Finding your own insurance
  3. Not have health insurance at all

And -like most things in life- there are pros and cons for each.

Taking your company’s insurance

Pros

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Cons

  1. 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.
  2. Your deductibles will reset many times a year when you need to switch between companies.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Pros

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Cons

  1. 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!)
  2. 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 yourself

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.

Insurance resources

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,

xo Laura

Keep learning, empowered travelers 💪

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Additional Reimbursements

Did your offer come with something extra that would cost the staffing agency money? This may include a CEU class, scrubs, or sign on bonuses. Don’t worry if this section is blank, most offers don’t have extra reimbursements.

Travel Reimbursements

This is tax-free money that is paid to you to help you pay for the expense of traveling to your assignment. Many staffing agencies pay for this per mile up to a certain amount. They will usually pay this on your first paycheck or split between your first paycheck and last. If you are traveling a short distance this could be a very small amount.

Also, it’s becoming more popular for an agency to not offer this at all. It’s really not a big deal though. If you don’t get travel reimbursement money you should make a bit more in your weekly pay so many times it all equals out.

Weekly Housing Stipends

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city. This is usually presented to travelers on a weekly or per shift basis.

The government tells the staffing agency the maximum they are allowed to pay travelers based on the cost of living in each zip code.

The staffing company does not usually get to pay us the full amount since they only have the amount the facility is willing to pay for us. That may end up being less than the government’s max, if so, no worries. This is okay as long as the total package is fair.

Weekly Meal Stipends

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city. This is usually presented to travelers on a weekly or per shift basis.

The government tells the staffing agency the maximum they are allowed to pay travelers based on the cost of living in each zip code. The staffing company does not usually get to pay us the full amount since they only have the amount the facility is willing to pay for us. That may end up being less than the government’s max, if so, no worries. This is okay as long as the total package is fair.

Weekly Insurance Costs

Medical insurance can impact your final paycheck a lot since it will deduct pay from your check each week. If you are taking the company health insurance, you are going to want to know up front about how much this will cost you per week.

The average is around $30 a week but some companies charge as much as $100 a week to their travelers and some offer some health insurance options for free. If you are not taking their insurance just set this to zero.

Hours per week

For this calculation, put the hours per week you are expecting to work. And then feel free to run it again with the hours you are guaranteed. Many times contracts have guaranteed hours that are lower than the expected hours.

Guaranteed hours means if the facility doesn’t need you to come in, you will still get paid as long as it was their choice and not yours to not work.

Also, find out if this contract has any “call off shifts” where the hospital can call you off without pay a certain number of times per contract. This is common and not a deal breaker but just good to know!

Length of assignment

In travel nurses and allied health the most common length of a travel assignment is 13 weeks. If you are looking for a contract shorter or longer just ask! Sometimes facilities or hospitals who hire you will be flexible.

Taxable rate per hour

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city.

If you do not have a tax home all of your pay will be taxed and put in this field.

Good to know: Your taxable base pay is the only part of your paycheck that is legally considered income. The average taxable base pay is $20 but you might get offers higher or lower than this. It’s the only part of your paycheck that is taxed

Nomadicare’s purpose is to empower. It’s the lifeblood that flows through every single thing we create. We are here to make sure every traveler has all the transparent knowledge they need to make empowered decisions. We want you to feel confident so you can live your dream!

Nomadicare is partnered with dozens of companies and each of those companies have access to different settings, locations, and exclusive contracts. We know their benefit options and who have jobs in each location. We will match you to the best recruiters for you and your goals. Every single recruiter has been vetted and comes with the Nomadicare guarantee.
You can browse the open jobs from many of our company partners on the Nomadicare’s anti bait and switch job board. When you see one that catches your eye, the goal is to apply asap. Jobs are closing faster than ever with all the craziness this year so speed is our best friend. When you request an interview, we’ll instantly match you with the vetted recruiter who posted that job.
Typically 0-3 months before you are ready to start your next assignment is best. A short quiz will give us a picture of who you are, and what you are looking for. After the quiz we’ll have everything we need to match you with the perfect recruirer for your travel goals
If you know where you want to go and you’re ready to travel, Instant Matching is perfect for you. You can browse the open jobs from many of our company partners on the Nomadicare’s anti bait-and-switch job board. When you see one that catches your eye, the goal is to apply asap. Jobs are closing faster than ever with all the craziness this year so speed is our best friend.
We highly recommended being ready! Having all of your documents and being super responsive are key. Speed is the biggest factor in getting the job you want. We recommend using a free service like Kamana, which you can share your online resume, credentials, and licenses with a single link to any of our vetted recruiters when requesting an interview.
Graph Café, Chiang Mai, Thailand 🥇