As a travel nurse new to the 1099 work life, when deciding to work with an agency, you’re also faced with another important decision: whether to take the company health insurance, or find your own. Taking company health insurance is a great option if you’re planning to stick with one agency for an extended period of time.
If you’re working with multiple agencies, are planning to take time off between assignments, or simply prefer the freedom to choose your own, then shopping for your own health insurance as a travel nurse can be more of a challenge.
As a traveler, health insurance plans generally have higher deductibles, and travel clinicians cannot deduct health insurance from their taxes like locum tenens medical providers can. There are several considerations you will have to keep in mind such as the annual deductible you want, the coverage you’ll need, the insurance premium, and out-of-pocket costs. You’ll also need to decide whether you want to enroll in a new, short-term health insurance plan for every location you travel to, or if you want to opt for a long-term plan with a wide network coverage area.
Luckily, Barton Healthcare Staffing offers health insurance to travel nurses and clinicians with a low annual deductible and out-of-pocket costs. However, if you’re still set on finding a private health insurance plan, we’re here to help with tips on how to shop for affordable travel nurse health insurance, straight from healthcare travel professionals, and health insurance representatives.
Work with a Broker
“There are a lot of things that you have to think about when you consider your insurance, like care networks, changes in income, etc., and a great broker will take all of those into consideration and help you pick the right private plan with an expert eye.”
-Clark Lynch, Senior Sales Associate at Apollo Insurance Group
Especially if you’re new to travel nursing, it’s always a good idea to work with a professional in your search for health insurance that suits your needs for the most affordable price. Try to find a broker who has good reviews and who has worked with travel nurses before. A broker with experience working with travel nurses will better understand your needs and know which considerations to take into account that you may not have even thought of.
Try Out Tricare
“Try to become eligible for Tricare. You typically can do so as a member of the military reserve.”
-James Cobb, RN, MSN
Tricare is a military program that offers health insurance to uniformed service members, retired service members, and their families, and it’s a fantastic option for travel nurses. Tricare not only provides coverage over entire regions of the United States, but also covers you while you’re traveling on business, with the exception of routine care, which should be obtained prior to your travels outside of your region of coverage.
Travel nurses can become eligible for Tricare by joining the reserve, where they are able to keep their regular civilian jobs and only have to serve part time. As for your training and duties, your travel nursing agency and the health care facilities you work for on assignment must provide you with time off for your military obligations.
The best part about Tricare is that it provides comprehensive coverage for a low premium of $46.09 for the member only, and $221.38 for the member and their whole family! In addition, though the cost increases, you will still remain eligible for Tricare if you retire from the reserve.
“A plan that offers strong telehealth benefits can be very useful for travel nurses.”
-Louise Norris, Broker and Analyst at Healthinsurance.org.
Telehealth is convenient and easy to use, and best of all, it’s portable! The advantage of finding a plan with telehealth benefits is that once you’ve enrolled in the plan and established a relationship with your provider/s at home, telehealth plans will cover you while you continue to use those providers virtually while you travel. This way, even when you travel outside of your plan’s network area, your telehealth appointments will be covered.
But what happens if you need emergency room care in a location outside of your plan’s network? Thanks to the new No Surprises Act of 2022, which protects consumers from “surprise” balance billing, you are not responsible for determining whether the care you’re receiving is in- or out-of-network in the event of an emergency. This means that in most cases, regardless of your location, you are off-the-hook for charges incurred for emergency room care or for hospitalization until you can be safely transferred to an in-network facility.
Be Realistic About Your Medical Needs
“My best tip is to think through what’s usual or predictable about your medical needs.”
-Alaina Ross, RN, BSN
Many travel clinicians and nurses tend to focus more on cost and geographic coverage, while glazing over the actual scope of the policy they’re considering. As you shop around for the lowest premiums and widest networks, it’s imperative to also conduct a mental audit of which medical expenses you need covered regularly, and keep them in mind to ensure your insurance company will provide you with adequate coverage.
Of course, any travel nurses’ ideal health insurance plan has the lowest possible cost, with the widest possible network. However, your health should always come before your work; so before you settle on just any health insurance policy, always be sure that it fits your needs not only as a traveler, but as a patient as well.