A lot of nurses have questions about how benefits such as health, vision,and dental insurance work with travel nursing. The fear of not having reliable health insurance is enough to make a nurse question if travel nursing is right for them. The good news is that there are a few options when it comes to travel nursing health insurance and other benefits.
Benefits Options for Travel Nurses
If a nurse is married, or has a domestic partner, they can check out the possibility of being added to their partner’s health insurance plan. That is an easy option if their significant other has an available and affordable plan through their job place. Obviously this isn’t an option for the single nurses out there or those that already carry the insurance for their family due to cost or other factors.
Most travel agencies offer benefits in some form. Some are affordable, and some are not. Some agencies will offer benefits that start day 1, and some require a 30 day waiting or premium pay period. Recruiters are the best source for information about available benefits, cost, and when they start taking effect. If you aren’t planning on using the benefits provided by the agency, you should be receiving a larger pay package than a nurse that opts to take the agency insurance.
Do Travel Nurse Agencies Provide Health Insurance?
Travel nurses may also find that some agencies only offer health insurance, not vision and dental insurance. For these situations, I’ve used Delta Dental and VSP Vision plans to supplement my health plan. I am not endorsing these plans in any way, that is just what has personally worked for me.
The problem with receiving agency-provided benefits is that you may not be covered in between assignments, especially if you change agencies between jobs. Some travel nursing agencies will extend your coverage between jobs if your next assignment is already signed with them, but many may not if the gap in employment is greater than 14-30 days. Travel nurses can opt to use COBRA coverage to extend their health insurance from a prior employer, but this may be an expensive long term option.
Alternative Health Insurance Ideas for Travel Nurses
There are a few alternatives to employer provided insurance and benefits. The websites I mentioned above have worked great for me for long term dental and vision coverage. I occasionally like to take long periods of time off between assignments and work per diem, so I have needed to find solutions to my travel nursing and health insurance dilemmas.
The first place you should check for insurance while you are traveling is the healthcare insurance marketplace. As with most insurances, factors like age, pre existing conditions, and the number of people on the plan will determine cost and fit for each individual nurse. If a nurse has frequent or complicated healthcare needs, a cheaper high- deductible plan may not work for them. In these circumstances the nurse should investigate agency coverage and options for time between assignments, if applicable. Cost of the plan also depends on state of residence and annual income. Be aware that if you under report your income to get ‘cheaper’ insurance, you will owe more money when you file your taxes. Best to over, not under, estimate your yearly income- you will be refunded money if you overestimate your salary.
Third Party Health Insurance and Travel Nursing
Another option is to use a 3rd party insurance supplier. Websites like GetMeHealthcare have a variety of plans available, with costs varying consistent with the above mentioned factors related to marketplace insurance. Before committing to one of these plans nurses need to ask who the insurance company is that is doing the underwriting, if there is a contractual commitment or if the plan can be renewed month to month, and if there are any fees associated with cancellation. I cannot speak to the quality of these plans, but I have heard of other travel nurses using them for basic insurance with minimal issues.
The last, but somewhat little known alternative is to join a Christian Ministry group healthcare plan. This usually requires you to be an active member of an approved Christian church and that you become a member of the Ministry. There are usually dollar amount caps on the cost of healthcare for members each year, and there can be other hidden fees and rules. I would have someone with knowledge of how to read these contracts review it before signing onto these plans, but it can be an option for nurses devoted to a Christian lifestyle.
Regardless of where you are getting your benefits and insurance, I wish for all nurses to have good health and solid insurance in case of emergency and/or accidents. The information in this article is subject to change as laws, benefit plans, and the profession of nursing is constantly seeking how to provide better and more affordable protection.