Ultimate Guide to Health Insurance for PRN Nurses

healthy nurse who is a mother playing with child in the ocean
Written by
Jenna Elizabeth
Reviewed by
Miranda Kay, RN
January 22, 2024

Table of Contents

Nurses nationwide are turning to freelance or contract work for greater flexibility and independence. That’s because per diem nursing, or working on an as-needed basis, can provide a nurse with one of the most valuable gifts: work-life balance

But wait, what about health insurance for nurses who work as independent contractors? Finding health insurance as an independent contractor is challenging and takes time. A recent study highlighted in a New York Times article, “It’s Not Just You: Picking a Health Insurance Plan Is Really Hard,” showed that most people struggle with choosing the right health insurance and routinely choose bad plans. 

Here’s the silver lining: As per diem contracts become more appealing to professional nurses across the country, health insurance companies are adjusting their policies to suit the needs of contract workers. 

Furthermore, if you know where to look, insurance companies now offer reasonable and affordable rates for independent workers. So, while getting insured as a nurse contractor can be a process, if you research and have the correct information, it’s not that hard to find health insurance—and guess what? We’ve already done some legwork for you below. 

Keep reading for a simple guide for navigating the complexities of securing health insurance as a per diem nurse. 

This article is primarily based on information from HealthCare.gov, an official U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.

Is Health Insurance for Per Diem Nurses Important?

Health insurance for nurses who work as independent contractors is important because it provides individuals with necessary financial protection in case of unexpected medical expenses. For the most part, since hospitals and other healthcare facilities do not formally employ contract nurses, travel and PRN nurses typically will not receive health insurance. As a result, some per diem nurses may choose to forgo health insurance altogether. However, going without is not advisable. Even if you are “healthy as a horse,” you don’t want to risk paying out-of-pocket for healthcare. Without health insurance, your prescription drugs, regular doctor visits, or even worse, a catastrophic emergency could land you with an enormous medical bill. Ah, no thanks, right? 

Therefore, obtaining health insurance is essential if you’re going to be a per diem nurse. Health insurance can help cover medical expenses, including routine check-ups, medications, and emergency care, ensuring that PRN nurses have access to necessary services. Health insurance will also help protect a PRN nurse financially in the event of unexpected medical costs.

Choosing the Best Health Care Plan: Calculating Costs

Per diem nurses typically have to pay out-of-pocket for health insurance for themselves and their families. The most common costs associated with out-of-pocket health insurance include the following:

  • Premiums: Health insurance premiums are regular payments made to insurance companies by individuals or employers for healthcare coverage. Usually paid monthly, these payments vary based on age, location, and chosen coverage level, among other factors.
  • Deductibles: Deductibles are predetermined amounts that individuals must pay before insurance coverage starts when dealing with specific medical expenses. Once individuals pay the deductibles, the insurance providers begin sharing the costs of medical expenses according to the policy terms.
  • Copayments: Copayments are predetermined out-of-pocket payments insured individuals must make for medical services or prescription drugs when they receive care. The insurance plans determine the amounts the insurance companies and the insured must pay.
  • Out-of-pocket maximums: These are the annual maximums the insured must pay for eligible healthcare services. Once individuals reach this threshold, insurance companies must pay 100 percent for covered services for the rest of the plan year. 

Before picking a contractor’s health insurance, you should have a good idea of estimated yearly costs by factoring in the abovementioned payments. Now, on to the fun stuff: choosing the right health insurance for you.

Coverage Options: Types of Health Insurance for PRN Nurses

cut out paper family secure in hands because they have insurance
Finding health insurance for your family as a nurse is important.

Purchasing health insurance is an investment in both your present and future well-being. Just as you wouldn’t buy a car or a house before researching thoroughly, selecting a health insurance plan on the spur of the moment is not a wise decision. The best course of action for a per diem nurse looking for health insurance is to begin “comparison shopping.” With this in mind, it is critical to carefully evaluate healthcare providers’ coverage, cost, and network of medical providers when choosing health insurance for independent consultants.

The following is a summary of the most common health insurance plan categories for which PRN nurses may be eligible:

Private Insurance Plans and Marketplace Health Insurance 

Private health insurance can be a good choice for per diem nurses with pre-existing medical conditions, nurses with families, and those whose income allows them to pay the premiums. Nurse contract workers can purchase individual health insurance plans directly from providers or the Health Insurance Marketplace, the federal government’s health insurance exchange service. These marketplaces were created in the United States as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to give consumers a straightforward, centralized approach to compare health insurance plans and enroll in one that fits their needs.

Many of these plans offer coverage for medical expenses, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription medications. Private health insurance costs vary depending on factors such as age, location, and coverage level, but there are no gaps in coverage. Knowing they will be covered no matter what can reassure per diem nurses deciding to switch from one job to another. On the contrary, some individual plans may have high deductibles and copayments. In other cases, delayed enrollment may occur due to pre-existing conditions. 

The final verdict? Private or marketplace insurance may be an excellent option for PRN nurses looking to avoid coverage gaps and receive high-quality care tailored to specific medical needs. So even though private insurance plans are typically more expensive than other types of insurance, the peace of mind you will have knowing you are always covered can be well worth the price. 

Short-Term Health Insurance

Contract nurses who cannot pay health insurance premiums may find short-term plans a good alternative. Short-term health insurance plans often offer much lower premiums than regular healthcare plans. They also provide much less coverage—sometimes for as little as several months to a year. Another factor to consider is that short-term healthcare plans typically offer minimal benefits. In general, short-term health plans aim to replace coverage in the event of a job change or while awaiting enrollment in an alternative health insurance plan.

The final verdict? Short-term health insurance is an option for nurses who need immediate coverage between contracts. They commonly have low premiums and can be tailored to your specific needs. However, most short-term health insurance plans do not cover individuals with pre-existing conditions or offer family coverage options. 

Catastrophic Insurance Plans

Catastrophic insurance plans have low monthly premiums but high deductibles. These plans are designed to cover major medical events, such as car accidents or severe illness, rather than routine or preventive care. They are generally accessible to younger people and are not eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Catastrophic insurance is typically meant for the worst-case situation and unanticipated medical emergencies that could total thousands of dollars in medical bills. 

The final verdict? Catastrophic insurance plans are excellent options for young and healthy individuals without chronic conditions and who don’t need regular care. If you are a nurse contractor looking for more specific and higher-quality care, there may be a better plan for you.

nurse searching for health insurance on laptop computer
Securing the right health insurance as a per diem nurse is essential to maintain health.

How to Find Health Insurance in My State

To begin your search for health insurance independent of long-term employment contracts, visit the official HealthCare.gov website. There, you can start comparison shopping and find information about available plans, subsidies, and enrollment periods. 

Alternatively, you can use non-government resources to compare different private insurance options from various providers. Finally, consider visiting your state’s Department of Insurance website to get a list of local insurance brokers or agents who can guide you through the process and provide personalized assistance in finding the right health insurance plan for your needs.

Find Health Insurance as a PRN Nurse: Final Thoughts 

Remember, health insurance is vital to your overall well-being and financial security. While navigating health insurance can seem tricky at first, finding quality and affordable healthcare for independent contractors just takes a bit of thought and comparison shopping, and it’s well worth the time and research. 

When choosing the best health insurance option for your needs, consider your budget and network of providers. When you find a policy that meets your needs, you can rest assured that you will have coverage when you need it the most. 

Are you a per diem nurse looking for an excellent health care plan? Nursa is committed to helping you find the coverage you require. Begin here to get answers to essential questions about the healthcare marketplace and insurance plans that could be right for you.

Additional Sources:

Blog published on:
January 22, 2024

Meet Jenna, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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