How Much Does Nutritionist Insurance Cost?

May 5, 2020 •

In recent years, the U.S. obesity rate surpassed 40%. At any given moment, 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. In a 2012 study, 52% of Americans reported that doing taxes was easier for them than making healthy choices.  

As a nation, our relationships with food are complex and our habits are deeply ingrained. 

For many, disordered eating provides a flood of comfort during uncertain times. As a nutritionist, you understand this and try to reconstruct people’s habits and help them alter their body chemistry through healthy eating and proper nutrition. Whether you conduct nutrition research or help clients form individualized diet plans, your ultimate goal is to guide people to live longer and healthier lives.

In this, however, there are inherent risks. 

Why do I Need Insurance Coverage as a Nutritionist?

You may be wondering, “do nutritionists need insurance?” The answer is yes– within the last few decades, demand has grown for nutritional counseling from individuals, schools, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. The power of healthy eating habits is finally getting the public attention that it deserves. As a healthcare professional, however, increased demand also increases your vulnerability to lawsuits and liabilities. 

Whether you’re a salaried employee, a business owner, or an independent contractor who offers individualized diet plans for clients, insurance can protect you from damages incurred from omissions or accidents related to your career. 

With insurance for nutritionists, you can feel a sense of calm and confidence as you work to better people’s lives. But what kind of policy do you need?

Individual Policies vs Group Coverage

If you are a salaried employee, you might assume that you are covered under your employer’s policy, and may not see an immediate need to purchase your own insurance plan. However, depending on your employer’s group policy, you may only be covered under a specific set of circumstances. 

If you’re an independent contractor working for that school or clinic, you may not be covered at all.

Additionally, under a group policy, you are sometimes expected to pay for your own legal settlement fees for incidents that occur with other employees, such as harassment suits. And when multiple employees are in a single lawsuit, the coverage can spread thin. CPH and Associates states: 

Why is having an individual policy of your own important? The clinic you work out of may have their own insurance policy and it may provide coverage for W2 employees; however, if multiple employees are named in a lawsuit, the policy defense costs will be shared amongst everyone named including the facility, potentially leaving you without the necessary coverage to pay all of the associated attorney fees.”

An individual policy eliminates this chance. The monthly and yearly costs of an individual plan are negligible when compared to the devastating cost of a potential lawsuit.

Even a Small Lawsuit Can be Bad for Business  

Imagine a client forgets to tell you about an allergy, and you include a supplement in her diet plan that triggers this allergy. She might then sue you for the cost of her medical fees, claiming that she had disclosed her allergy to you.

Even if charges against you are ultimately dismissed, the cost of hiring a lawyer to defend yourself could easily soar upward of around $15,000. For a small business or an independent contractor, this unforeseen expense could spell financial disaster and the publicity of a lawsuit could tarnish your professional reputation.

What Types of Coverage Would a Nutritionist Need and Who Would they Protect?

Depending on the size and nature of your operation, you may consider a few types of insurance. 

General liability insurance prevents you from bearing financial responsibility for a variety of unforeseen pitfalls inherent to any business, while professional liability insurance (sometimes also called ‘errors and omissions insurance’) prevents you from incurring damages for harmful effects (or perceived ones) of professional advice that you’ve given. 

On top of substantially mitigating the risk of lawsuits and bankruptcy, liability insurance is a requirement for nutritionists to count as in-network for most insurance providers.

Other types of insurance that you may consider (depending on the size of your business and the types of machinery that you work with) are:

  • Property insurance
  • Cyber liability insurance
  • Worker’s compensation insurance
  • Business auto insurance

The Most Important Types for Nutritionists

When it comes to the varying types of policies, these are the most important for nutritionists.

  • Professional Liability Insurance – Sometimes called “errors and omissions” insurance, professional liability insurance protects you from being sued for errors of omissions made in your professional capacity causing the standard of care to not be met. Especially in vulnerable populations like nursing homes and long-term care facilities, there are risks associated with changing people’s dietary habits. For example, when creating a diet plan for a patient in a nursing home, you could be blamed for his sudden weight loss and failure to digest food. 

Even if you are not at fault, these accusations can be costly to address. Professional     liability insurance keeps you protected from malpractice suits as a nutrition professional. 

The median cost among dietitians for professional liability insurance is about $365 per year for a policy limit of about $500,000 per event.

  • General Liability Insurance – General liability insurance covers you from legal responsibility for any injury to clients that occurred on the job (for instance, a client trips on your building’s steps and sprains her ankle), claims of property damage, advertising injury (for example, a rival business claims that you stole their graphic design), medical fees, and legal fees. It protects professionals from bearing responsibility for a variety of occurrences, and it is a must for any nutritionist who works directly with clients. 

On average, dietitians pay about $350 per year for general liability protection for a policy limit of about $1 million per event.

  • Cyber Liability Insurance – In recent years, the US has become increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks and data breaches. Recent studies report that 64% of businesses have experienced web-based attacks, and 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses. As a nutritionist, you store broad swathes of personal data –– including clients’ financial information –– on your computer system. Cyber liability insurance covers legal fees and damages associated with hacks, breaches, and phishing schemes, and pays for the recovery of data that is lost. 

Small businesses spend an average of $1000-$2000 per year for cyber security insurance, but this number varies dramatically depending on the size of your operation.

NOW Insurance offers these three policies for nutritionists and dietitians who want to stay focused on the work at hand.

Other Types of Insurance you Might Consider as a Nutritionist

Apart from these three, there are a few other types of business insurance policies that you might consider, including:

  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance – If you are a business owner, you may consider investing in worker’s compensation insurance for employees. Workers’ comp covers medical costs for injuries that employees incurred while at work. For instance, if a worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome from typing or strains their back while lifting heavy equipment, this insurance will cover the cost of their doctor’s appointments and physical therapy.  

Workers comp can also partially compensate for missed wages during an employee’s medical leave. Many states require that companies with over five employees purchase worker’s compensation insurance –– but even if it is not required, it could be  responsible to invest in a plan.  

  • Business Auto Insurance – If you own or lease a vehicle specifically to perform business operations, business auto insurance can protect you from claims of damages to third parties by the car. With a business auto insurance plan, for example, a fender bender incurred on the drive to a client’s house will not spell huge losses for your company. 
  • Property Insurance – If you use valuable equipment on a day-to-day basis, or want to ensure that your business will not crumble from a fire or a flood, it is a good idea to invest in a property insurance plan. Property insurance covers damages or theft of materials –– for example, a water-drenched laptop, shattered scale, or stolen company phone. At the same time, it also protects you from bearing financial responsibility for damages to your brick and mortar structure, which could be a life-saver in the case of fire, earthquake or flood. 

Other Measures to Protect Yourself

After you’ve purchased an insurance plan, further minimize your vulnerability to lawsuits by thoroughly documenting all advice that you’ve given. Keep detailed logs of client meetings, and consult with clients’ physicians before assigning dietary plans. 

Even if your relationships with clients are buoyant and friendly, healthcare professionals must protect themselves against accusations (founded or unfounded) that you or your organization caused harm. Keeping pristine notes offers you ‘receipts’ that you can pull out in the face of an accusation. 

Additionally, keep your paperwork secure, and consult with an IT professional about encrypting the data on your computer system to mitigate the risk of a cyber breach. 

They say you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Once you’ve taken steps to protect yourself and your business, you can focus on your clients with a clear and present mind. 

Insurance for Every Nutritionist

No matter the size or scale of your operation, an individual insurance plan for nutritionists allows you to think about your clients’ health and wellness instead of potential disasters that may befall you. 

And with NOW Insurance by your side, that clarity can start right NOW.