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From hospitals and clinics to senior homes and community health centers, nurses play a hugely impactful role in promoting better health and providing necessary care. This includes conducting physical exams, counseling and education, and coordinating patient care.
The duties of the average registered nurse are many and varied, which can get even more complicated with over 100 different specializations. That inherently results in some amount of legal and financial risk. Thankfully, you have various forms of insurance to lean on, providing protection when you need it. What types of insurance do nurses need?
Health Insurance for Nurses
Accidents happen, and whether you get sick or suffer an injury, you should be able to rest easy knowing that you have the insurance to cover it. Thankfully, most employers provide their full-time nurses with health insurance, though you may be required to pay a monthly premium. Policies can vary from employer to employer, plan to plan, but as a full-time nurse, you can generally expect health, vision, and dental coverage.
However, according to a Medscape survey, about one-quarter of full-time licensed practical nurses do not have employer-subsidized health insurance. This means you may have to apply for private health insurance. This may be pricey, but it does offer flexibility and peace of mind.
Travel Nurse Health Insurance
Health insurance and benefits may become even more complicated for travel nurses. Most travel nursing agencies provide health insurance at a reasonable rate. However, this insurance may only apply when you are on the job, which can leave you potentially anxious when you are between assignments.
Taking the insurance provided by your travel nurse agency makes for a much easier process. It’s more affordable and less involved than looking for your own personal health insurance, and most policies provided by agencies offer significant coverage and access to economies of scale.
It’s also not uncommon for travel nurses to apply for their own coverage. Health insurance provided by agencies often come with too many gaps, and many insurance plans don’t start immediately. You may have to wait up to one month into your new assignment until your plan goes into effect. Health emergencies are rare, but they do happen when you least expect them. If your plan isn’t in effect during one of these emergencies you could be in trouble.
If you are worried about these gaps in coverage, you may want to apply for private health insurance. This also gives you extra flexibility when you are between agencies, and many agencies may actually pay you more if you are covered by private insurance as it creates less of a hassle and responsibility for them.
Malpractice and Liability Insurance for Nurses
Hospitals, clinics, and other health care environments come with a variety of potential risks. As with any other job, mistakes happen, but in a medical setting, mistakes can result in dire consequences that may lead to a patient filing a lawsuit. Medical negligence is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and it can come at any point in the process, including diagnosis, treatment, and any counseling provided after treatment.
Medical malpractice insurance is a type of liability insurance that protects nurses, doctors, and other licensed medical professionals in the event of a malpractice suit. Most malpractice insurance policies cover claims involving:
- Bodily injury
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Any type of personal injury, including mental anguish
Medical malpractice policies generally do not cover any liability arising from sexual misconduct and other criminal acts.
Due to the complexity of liability suits, the main crux of medical malpractice insurance goes toward expenses involved with defending and settling suits. This includes:
- Attorney and legal fees
- Court costs
- Medical damages
- Settlement and arbitration costs
- Any punitive and compensatory damages
Some states also require a minimum amount of coverage for individual claims and for the total of all claims made.
How to Obtain Malpractice Insurance
Medical malpractice insurance is normally available via traditional insurance carriers and medical risk retention groups. Larger hospitals and medical institutions often have their own liability insurance that comprises a large, shared trust fund that helps to pay for the defense and legal costs of any malpractice suits, as well as judgments resulting from those claims. Smaller practices offer individual and group plans.
Types of Malpractice Insurance
Medical malpractice insurance comes in two primary forms: claims-made and occurrence. With claims-made policies, you are only protected if your policy is in effect when the incident took place and when the claim is filed. This means that coverage needs to extend for longer periods of time as a patient may make a claim several months, and sometimes years, after the actual incident occurred.
Many claims-made policies include a period of coverage known as a tail, which extends your coverage for a few years after the actual policy ends. If not offered off the bat, tail coverage periods can usually be purchased separately. The price of tail coverage usually comprises a one-time assessment fee that, depending on your situation, could end up being a lifesaver. Tail coverage is especially important during periods of transition, like switching insurance carriers, changing positions or specialties, or retiring. Your tail coverage may be paid for by your previous practice or by your new practice.
By comparison, occurrence policies provide protection for any claim that took place while your policy was in effect, regardless of if the claim was filed after the end of the coverage period. This generally makes for an easier overall process as you do not need to worry about purchasing extra tail coverage. The tradeoff is that occurrence policies are generally more expensive than claim-made policies, and most employers will not offer occurrence policies. Still, depending on your situation, it may be worth it to spend a little extra money and research time finding an occurrence policy that works for you.
Why Nurses Need Individual Liability Insurance
Liability insurance is essential to nurses. No one wants things to go awry, so liability insurance can give you protection and peace of mind if things do go wrong. However, while most employers offer medical malpractice insurance to nurses, you may want to consider applying for your own individual liability insurance. The main reasons you should consider individual liability insurance include:
- When you get your own insurance, you are the named insured entity. When you use your employer’s insurance, their company or organization name is what’s on the dotted line. That ultimately means that your employer’s policy will work in the interest of your employer, which may not always line up with your own. Depending on the incident, this could actually lead to conflicts. While you may still be defended by your employer’s insurance company, but if you are found liable, you may be the one responsible for paying any punitive or compensatory judgment awarded to the patient.
- Getting your own policy ensures that you are working with someone who has your best interests in mind. As the named insured, you are provided with your own attorney in the event of a judicial proceeding. These attorneys can provide defense and reimburse you for certain costs if you are disciplined by the nursing board.
- While your employer may cover claims made to the hospital or clinic, most employer plans do not cover direct complaints made to the board of nursing. In the event of a liability claim, you may be covered in a lawsuit, but a complaint to the board could result in you losing your nursing license. That means years of education and experience lost in a moment. Getting your own policy may offer defense from lawsuits and complaints to the nursing board.
- Even with full-time shifts, nurses are often considered independent contractors by their employers. If you do use an employer’s liability insurance, it’s important to read the details and understand if you are actually covered.
Individual policies may come with their own perks and benefits not always provided by employer-provided options. This includes coverage for:
- First-aid expenses
- Libel and slander
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violations
- License protection
Companies that offer individual liability policies may also provide a variety of risk-management services.
Nursing positions come with as many potential risks as other medical positions. While no one plans to make a mistake, having the right insurance policy in place ensures that you are protected if something does come up. Look into individual policies, and work out the details with your employer or a consultant to determine a plan that works best for your needs.
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