Immediate health insurance coverage that begins as soon as the next day is easy to find, but not all insurance plans are the same. Before you apply for a short-term insurance plan, it’s important to understand how temporary health insurance works and what it will cover. Below, we help define features, explain when short-term coverage might be a good fit, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of temporary medical insurance plans.
What Is Short-Term Medical Insurance, and What Does It Cover?
Short-term health insurance is a medical plan designed to cover emergency services. Short-term plan services vary by policy. These plans are designed to cover gaps between permanent, comprehensive coverage. This type of coverage is also known as short-term or temporary insurance.
Temporary health insurance does not provide the same level of coverage that a comprehensive health plan provides. However, these plans can help provide some financial protection against the costs of a variety of accidents and illnesses. For this reason, short-term health insurance can act as a safety net if you are concerned about experiencing a medical emergency during a lapse in major medical benefits.
How Long Will Short-Term Health Insurance Last?
Short-term medical insurance provides emergency coverage for up to one year (364 days to be exact). As the plan expires, you can reapply for coverage for up to 36 months in some states. Plans can be purchased for incremental periods of time. For example, you can purchase a policy on a month-by-month basis for three months, or you can purchase a six-month health insurance policy. Some states have additional restrictions on plan duration, so you should speak with a local agent before purchasing immediate health insurance coverage.
Can I Get Medical Insurance Today?
You can get temporary medical insurance coverage as soon as the next day with some short-term plans. Plans can be issued in less than 24 hours and usually kick in the next day.
How Much Does Short-Term Health Insurance Cost?
On average, an individual temporary medical plan costs around $107 a month. In comparison, the average monthly premium for an Affordable Care Act plan was $490 in 2018. Short-term plans are generally more affordable than most major medical plans, unless you qualify for subsidies, but keep in mind the short-term coverage is often slimmer.
Additionally, the out-of-pocket costs can also be larger for short-term health insurance. Deductibles can be high as well. (They averaged $4,964 for a three-month plan in 2018.) When deciding on overall value, you will have to compare the potential need for services and out-of-pocket costs against the price and level of coverage provided.
Can You Get Temporary Health Insurance Between Jobs?
Yes, you can purchase short-term health insurance between jobs. This may be one of the most common reasons why you would need immediate health insurance coverage. If you are currently out of work because you’ve been laid off or terminated, you may be a candidate for short-term health insurance. Purchasing even a 30-day health insurance policy can sometimes be enough to fill the insurance gap between jobs.
Who Else Should Consider Temporary Health Insurance?
Short-term health insurance can benefit many people in various phases of life. Those who could benefit from temporary health insurance include:
- Recent college graduates
- Early retirees
- Those who missed the Open Enrollment Period
- Those who need quick proof of insurance
- Those seeking an alternative to COBRA
The Pros and Cons of Short-Term Health Insurance
The Positives of Short-Term Health Insurance
There are many advantages to purchasing a temporary health insurance plan.
- Affordable: Most polices can be obtained for less than the price of COBRA or major medical insurance.
- Fast Approval: Plans can be issued in less than 24 hours and usually kick in the next day.
- Flexible periods of coverage: Plans can be selected for a duration as short as one month; you can reapply for coverage for up to 36 months in some states.
- Flexible payment options: Most polices will allow you to pay month-to-month or pay for several months up front.
- Coverage outside of enrollment: If you missed the deadline and do not have access to group coverage, this may be your next best option.
- Selectable premium, benefit, and deductibles: Insurance companies offer a selection of coverage levels, premiums, and deductibles to choose from.
- Available year-round: Polices can be purchased nearly any day of the year because there is no enrollment period.
- Easy Cancellation: Most insurance companies will allow you to cancel your policy at any time.
The Cons of Short-Term Health Insurance
Short-term medical insurance has some drawbacks. It is important to keep in mind that while it may provide immediate health insurance coverage that can begin as soon as the next day, it does not offer the same amount of protection as a comprehensive medical plan. Take these facts into consideration before committing to a short-term health insurance plan:
- Does not offer 10 essential benefits: Plans do not provide coverage for all of the Affordable Care Act’s 10 essential benefits.
- Uses medical underwriting: This means you could be denied coverage based on a number of current or past health factors.
- Does not cover pre-existing conditions: A pre-existing condition refers to any medical condition that starts prior to the purchase of a new health insurance policy. Most tests, services, or treatment related to the condition will not be covered.
- Does not typically cover preventive services: Physical exams generally are not covered, and neither are maternity care and treatment for mental illness.
- No premium reductions: No federal subsidies or tax breaks are available for short-term coverage.
- Not guaranteed “renewable”: You are required to reapply and submit to health questions, or medical underwriting, any time you “renew.” Any development of new or worsened conditions since the start of the policy can be taken into consideration.
- Cost caps may be different: Policies may not have out-of-pocket maximums but could have limits for annual or lifetime benefits.
How Do I Get Immediate Healthcare Coverage?
Private insurance companies offer short-term health insurance plans, and coverage and availability will differ from state to state. Find the best short-term health insurance available in your area with HealthMarkets. We can help you compare plan options and secure immediate health insurance coverage that can kick in as soon as the next day, if you’re eligible. If you’re not sure a short-term health plan is for you, let us help you find coverage—even if your best option doesn’t include plans we offer. Call us at (800) 304-3414.