By June 27, 2011 1 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: How do I deal with travel nursing health insurance?


travel nurse at the doctorAsk a Travel Nurse Question:

Just need guidance on insurance coverage. Just found out not covered during my time off if I don’t sign with same company before end of assignment. Although I was told differently, how do others deal with this. I have md appts during my time off between assignments perfect time right? Now I learn won’t be covered unless I resign which won’t happen and new assignment doesn’t cover till new start date. I can’t afford cobra for 4 months. Please help with direction on how to do this. Thanks.

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:

Hey Sean. You’ve discovered the reason that many travelers actually decline their company’s insurance and seek private insurance. For those of us who travel a few times a year or enjoy taking extended breaks between assignments, insurance becomes a big issue.

Insurance coverage with many companies can last through the end of the month when you complete an assignment (although some companies have even stopped doing this). There is no doubt that providing employees health insurance is one of a company’s largest expenses. Therefore, no company is going to continue your coverage if you are not actively working for them.

For me, I try to plan all my doctor visits while on assignment and make sure I use the mail order prescription program with my company so that I can have a three month medication supply sent to me just prior to ending an assignment. I also have a major medical plan with an insurance company that just covers major injuries or hospitalizations during my times not on assignment.

Unfortunately, today’s health options are not kind, or affordable, to independent contractors (which is essentially what we are). I don’t know what to tell you to do regarding your scheduled appointments, but you can certainly see the need for forethought on your next assignment. If you really need to see these docs, you might have to spring for a month of Cobra. Explain the situation to your doctor so that maybe they can give you med samples for anything you might require.

Also, make sure you get ANYTHING you are counting on from your assignment, in writing. When someone now says, “Well I think….”, my mind just cuts them off right then and there because chances are they have NO IDEA how it actually works. We work under contracts which often provide little protection for the travel nurse. However, they do serve the purpose of documenting what we should expect to receive as part of our assignment benefits. I’m sorry that this will have to be a live and learn situation, but seasoned travelers have walked in your same shoes.

If you don’t have many health problems, consider private insurance. Talk with many agents to find a carrier that will be right for you. Will take some time and effort, but you might just find a carrier that is better than any travel company insurance you have had.

Sorry there is no quick fix for this, but I hope I have helped some.

Travel Nurses

About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

1 Comment on "Ask a Travel Nurse: How do I deal with travel nursing health insurance?"

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  1. Linda


    I am so glad I found you. I have traveled for 12+ years and your article on health insurance is so true. I feel better now about having my own private insurance since 2007. So often we change about companies to get the assignments we want. Often too there can be a gap of time just getting the next assignment especially now compared to years ago. Too lower my monthly cost I think I will raise my yearly deductible. Note,, it’s best to have that amount in a savings just in case. Also add to that savings several month’s payments. No one wants to keep switching insurance companies especially now. Love your blog and thanks Linda

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