You know what they say: If you have your health, you have everything. Being healthy — and having confidence that you have access to good care if and when you’re not — is so important that some people say it’s a basic human right. But whether you believe this or not, one thing’s for sure: when it comes to your health, you want the best for yourself, and that means finding the right health insurance provider and plan.
As a traveling nurse, the process of researching health insurance providers and plans can feel complex to the point of feeling daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. If you begin the process of selecting a provider and plan by first getting a general “lay of the land,” you’ll find it much easier to navigate the broader process.
Understanding the Tier System
There are four tiers of health insurance plans, each designated by a different metal: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. These categories have nothing to do with the quality of care you’ll receive, they just refer to the quantity you’ll pay in monthly premiums. (With Platinum being the most expensive, then Gold, then Silver, then bronze.)
Specifically, each tier reflects what percentage of healthcare services-rendered that you vs. your insurance carrier will be responsible for paying, how much your monthly premium will cost, and how high your deductible will be.
Bronze plans will generally cover 60% of your cost, Silver will cover 70%, Gold will cover 80%, and Platinum will cover 90%. Regardless of which plan you choose, you pay whatever portion your insurance carrier doesn’t cover. The more your plan covers, the higher your premium will be. (Though in some cases, your premium may be adjusted according to your income.)
Understanding the Types of Plans
Just as there are different tiers of plans, there are different types of plans that you’ll want to be familiar with. For travel nurses, the most important types to have on your radar include…
- Agency-provided insurance is an ideal plan type since it’s part of your larger employment package. This makes it a highly affordable and convenient option. What’s more, your agency will handle a reasonable portion of your coverage.
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) gives you access to a network of preferred healthcare providers. Some of these networks extend across several states, making it likelier there’s one in your assigned area. Just the same, check with your insurance provider beforehand to make sure.
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) requires you to select a Primary Care Physician (PCP) who will handle referrals should you need specialist care. The referrals will be made within your network, which means that if you receive treatment by a healthcare provider outside of it that you’ll be responsible for all costs (except for those associated with emergency care).
- Point of Service (POS) insurance is a combination of the PPO and HMO plans discussed above. You’ll still need a PCP referral if you need to see a specialist, but you’ll have increased access to out-of-network providers.
The coverage between these plans can differ considerably. For this reason, be sure to speak with a health insurance provider representative to help you better understand which plan will best suit your healthcare needs and budget.
Understanding Total Costs
Beyond your monthly premium, there are other costs associated with carrying health insurance. These include your deductible — or how much you’ll be responsible for paying out of pocket before your insurance kicks in, copayments — payment rendered for office visits or medical services after satisfying your deductible, and your out-of-pocket maximum — the cap of your out-of-pocket costs during a given coverage year. Taking into account these costs and estimating the type and number of medical services you anticipate needing during your policy year can help you better determine which plan is right for you.
Understanding Your Healthcare Plan Benefits
Different plans place different emphasis on various benefits that are geared to particular healthcare needs. For example, depending on whether you foresee needing physical therapy, fertility treatment, or mental health care, there’s a specific plan that will be an optimal choice for you.
Different plans also offer different levels of coverage for various drugs. If you depend on a particular drug — especially if the out-of-pocket expense for this drug is cost-prohibitive for you — you’ll want to take special care to find out if the plan you’re considering covers it. Again, it’s essential to understand the ins and outs of the plan you’re looking into, and your health insurance provider representative is there to assist you in coming to clarity.
Understand the Flexible Benefits of a Health Savings Account
Some health insurance plans include a Health Savings Account (HSA). The funds in your HSA help you pay for eligible health care expenses and services your plan doesn’t cover. Because they are highly flexible, HSAs enjoy high levels of popularity among many healthcare consumers. They can not only reduce your medical expenses but also the amount of taxes you’ll owe. The funds in your HSAs can also be invested or saved for your retirement. Keep in mind, however, that HSAs are only available with high-deductible health plans.
If you have your health, you have everything. (Or at least a whole lot more than you do when you’re struggling with illness.) Finding the right healthcare insurance provider and plan can make it much likelier that you’ll have access to the healthcare you need at a price you can afford. Now that you know the basics for navigating the broader process, we wish you good luck and good health!
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