Short term health insurance plans are available in many states for as little as $100 per month, which provides a quick and affordable solution if you’re between jobs or if you’ve just gotten off your parents’ health insurance. What exactly does short term health insurance cover and is it right for you?
Benzinga created a comprehensive guide with everything that you need to know about short term plans. We’ve also rounded up the best health insurance companies that offer these affordable options.
Quicklook: Best Short Term Health Insurance
- Best for No Enrollment Period: Sidecar
- Best for Comparing Short Term Health Plans: Pivot
- Best for Flexible Plans and Coverage Options: UnitedHealthcare
- Best for Anybody Who Needs Temporary Health Insurance: Everest
- Best for Temporary Health Plans: Aetna
Benzinga has compiled the best short term health insurance companies based on affordability, customer service
Best for No Enrollment Period: Sidecar Health Access Plan
- securely through Sidecar Health Access Plan's websiteBest For:No enrollment period health insuranceRating:Read Review
Plans referred to above are excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance products marketed and administered by Sidecar Health Insurance Solutions, LLC and underwritten by Sirius America Insurance Company or United States Fire Insurance Company, depending on the state. As an excepted benefit plan, it does not provide comprehensive/major medical expenses coverage, minimum essential coverage, or essential health benefits. You cannot receive a subsidy (premium tax credit and/or cost-sharing reduction) under the ACA in connection with your purchase of such an excepted benefit fixed indemnity insurance plan. Also, the termination or loss of this policy does not entitle you to a special enrollment period to purchase a health benefit plan that qualifies as minimum essential coverage outside of an open enrollment period. Coverage and plan options may vary or may not be available in all states.
Sidecar has created a new approach to health insurance that gives consumers flexibility and affordability in a single package. The Sidecar Health Access Plan comes with a card that helps you pay for medical care, giving you up to 40% off in some cases, making it easier to access care and creating less worry about extra bills.
You can easily customize your plan, there’s no provider network, the mobile app is easy to use and there’s no enrollment period. You can grab short-term health insurance, hold onto the coverage for as long as you need and cancel when you like. With 3 plan options, there’s something for people between jobs, those who can’t get insurance at work or anyone who needs to purchase insurance quickly.
- Sidecar helps you get insurance when you’re in between jobs or simply need to purchase health insurance for a few months
- The high discount levels can make it much easier for you to keep money in your pocket
- Works well for those who can’t get insurance through their job
- Sidecar has short-term policies, but the firm is not large enough to allow you to convert to a long-term policy
Best for Comparing Short Term Health Plans: Pivot Health
- securely through Pivot Health's websiteBest For:Comparing short term health plansRating:
Availability of plans and policy duration vary by state.
Pivot Health is known for its flexible, short-term health insurance options. There are several wonderful options when you use Pivot Health, including:
- Video consultations
- Discounted prescriptions
- Vision services
Choose the policy duration you need from 1 month to 12 and register when you’re ready. Options such as these are perfect for anyone who needs insurance quick and doesn’t want to overpay for ACA-type policies.
- A video consult helps you make better decisions when buying insurance
- There are prescription discounts available that can keep costs down
- Vision services are covered up to a point
- While Pivot is easy to use, you may need to adjust coverage or start a new policy if your original estimate is incorrect
Best for Flexible Plans and Coverage Options: United Healthcare
- securely through UnitedHealthcare Short Term Health Insurance's websiteBest For:Flexible plans and coverage optionsRating:
Short-term health insurance from United Healthcare is a surprising and welcome delight from one of the biggest carriers in the industry. If you’re unable to afford an ACA policy or need a policy that will expire at a predetermined time, you can try United short-term insurance that works like any other policy. Plus, these policies are good for:
- Adults who fall off their parents’ insurance at age 26
- Anyone who has lost their job or is in between jobs
- Anyone who is waiting for an ACA policy to start
- Retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare
You can customize your policy through United Healthcare right now and get covered instead of waiting or living without this necessary protection.
- The range of people that can be covered makes it much easier for you to find coverage for yourself or a loved one
- You can cover waiting periods from long-term policies
- There are retirees who can use this platform to protect themselves
- While this platform covers a range of unique individuals, you must have a plan to move on from your short-term coverage in the near future
Best for Anyone Who Needs Temporary Health Coverage: Everest
- securely through Everest | Health's websiteBest For:Anybody who needs temporary health insuranceRating:
The FlexTerm health insurance plan from Everest is a temporary solution when you find yourself without insurance. Consumers find themselves between policies or on a place where they simply cannot access insurance, but they can purchase from Everest.
There are multiple deductible and policy maximum options along with monthly or prepayment options and a free-look period. Plus, you there are several coinsurance and copay options that help you customize your plan along with choosing the specific duration you require.
- Flex-term insurance is a good idea for anyone who needs to purchase only a few months of coverage
- There are those who cannot get insurance any other way, but they can use Everest
- You can choose a copy option that’s best for your budget
- You may feel as though this platform doesn’t offer quite enough coverage, which could be true if you’re between policies and require specialized care
Best for Temporary Health Plans: Aetna
- securely through Aetna Short Term Health Insurance's websiteBest For:Temporary health plansRating:
While Aetna may seem like the sort of company that doesn’t need to offer short-term insurance, it has that option for anyone who needs it. You can access the same sort of coverage that Aetna offers through business or group plans, and you can decide how long the policy should last.
With an A rating from AM Best and a long track record of protecting families and individuals, Aetna gives you a safe choice if you are between jobs, a graduate student, missed the open enrollment period or need to purchase health insurance quickly. Additionally, you may be under court order to seek coverage for your dependents, or you may need to select short-term coverage when there’s a significant gap between the policies you have (old vs. new job, etc.)
- Aetna is a financially stable company you can rely on
- You can gain coverage for you children or anyone else who must be covered for a short period of time
- You can adjust the length of the policy to meet you needs
- Aetna is a massive company with several subsidiaries, and you may find that one of them can serve you even better
What is Short-Term Health (STM) Insurance?
Short-term health insurance refers to a plan that is meant to fill a gap in insurance coverage for those who don't have or don't want an Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare plan, but want insurance. These plans are also appealing to some because they often have less expensive premiums than plans offered on the ACA Marketplace.
However, the lower premiums may come with a higher cost in the end. Short-term health plans aren't ACA compliant, so providers often opt out of providing comprehensive coverage, or coverage for preexisting and chronic conditions. They may also come with low annual maximums, expensive co-pays or restrictively expensive deductibles.
Also, the legality of short term health insurance plans, where they're available and what type of coverage they have to offer varies year by year.
Short Term Health Insurance Law
The current federal short-term health insurance restrictions include:
- Coverage term length restrictions (Federal law: term limit of 364 days)
- Renewal restrictions (Federal law: plans can be renewed 3 times up to 36 months)
- Many states have stricter regulations than this
- Several states prohibit short-term plans entirely
- Plans are not Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant
- Plans are not subject to the same protections as ACA-compliant plans
- Many plans do not cover preexisting or chronic conditions due to being exempt from ACA rules
Many states have stricter or looser regulations than what is mandated by the federal government. As an example, let's look at Michigan's rules regarding short-term health insurance. Here, short-term duration plans are governed by the following set of rules:
- Coverage period limited to 185 days
- Policies are not required to cover preexisting conditions
- Do not satisfy the requirement to have health insurance
- Plans are non-compliant with the Affordable Care Act and it's protections
While you should weigh your options carefully if you're considering short-term health insurance, you can compare quotes from the following providers if you're ready to buy temporary coverage.
Who is Eligible for STM Plans?
- Losing employer-sponsored coverage and not eligible for COBRA
- Losing coverage due to a divorce
- Required to provide coverage during a divorce proceeding
- Moving to a different state and needing coverage until you can enroll through your new state's marketplace
- Young people losing parental coverage
- Those who cannot afford ACA plans or don't want to pay as much
- Those who want plans without provider network limits
- Early retirement before you're eligible for Medicare
- Those in need of coverage in the waiting period before Medicare begins
Here are some circumstances that may identify you are someone who needs temporary health insurance:
- You’ve got a gap in coverage due to a new job. Let’s say that you’ve recently been promised a job with a new company, but due to a move, a new baby
oranother factor, your actual start date is a few weeks from now. A short term plan is an affordable option to keep you covered without committing to a year-long plan.
- You don’t qualify for a special enrollment period. If you’re waiting for open enrollment to begin but want quick coverage for emergencies, short term plans provide the perfect solution.
- You cannot or do not want to purchase an ACA-compliant plan. As of 2019, there is no longer a tax penalty for not having an ACA-compliant health care plan. Maintaining some form of health insurance, even if limited and temporary, is better than having no protection at all, and short term plans are much more affordable than their ACA-compliant counterparts.
What to Consider When Buying an STM Plan
In other states where short term plans are sold, individual limitations on plans must be observed on a case-by-case basis. For example, you can buy a short term plan for up to 364 days in Pennsylvania (which defaults to the federal rules) but you’re limited to only 90 days in Oregon and Maryland.
Short term plans may reject you for having a preexisting condition.
Because short term plans are not ACA-compliant, they do not have to follow all the rules and regulations. You may be denied a short term plan for any preexisting condition, including those that you do not know that you have when you sign on.
Marketers have a high incentive to sell short term plans.
Health insurance companies are less regulated when selling short term plans and they can exclude conditions that would be considered illegal under the ACA. Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that brokers pay an average of 20 percent commission to associates who sign on clients with a short term plan compared to the standard 5 percent for an ACA-compliant plan. Beware of heavy-handed marketing tactics and boiler room sales pitches when shopping.
You might be able to get long-term coverage.
Open enrollment for ACA exchanges is usually held at the end of the year in most states, beginning around early November and ending mid-December. However, you may qualify for a special enrollment period if you’ve recently lost your job and in the mix, have also lost your employer-sponsored health insurance enrollment. You could also qualify if you’ve just gotten married, had or adopted a child. If you aren’t sure if a short term plan is right for you, check out our article
Get the Right Short Term Health Insurance Plan
Your short term health insurance options will vary by state. Not all health care companies are authorized to offer plans in every state and in some states, getting a short term plan is impossible. The most important thing to remember when shopping for a short term plan is that temporary solutions are not intended for long-term health considerations.
Short term plans have much more leverage when it comes to terminating coverage or denying a claim so they should be your last resort if you don’t already have a plan to secure a long-term ACA-compliant plan. If you’re worried about the cost, know that the ACA has introduced subsidies to help low-income Americans afford permanent coverage. To learn more about health insurance subsidies, check out Healthcare.gov’s outline for subsidized coverage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is health insurance required?
The federal mandate that required health insurance has been lifted but some states have enacted state-level mandates that require residents to have health insurance.
What does health insurance cover?
Most health insurance plans provide the 10 essential health benefits that were part of Obamacare requirements. Coverages include preventive and wellness services, prescription drug coverage, emergency services, ambulatory services, lab services, pediatric services, and more.
How can I save money on health insurance?
For healthcare plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act, only a handful of rating factors affect your premium. These include age and location, at least one of which can’t be changed. Smokers will pay more in most cases and your choice of plan level can affect premiums as well.
What are short-term health insurance plans?
Short-term health insurance plans cover medical expenses beyond the open enrollment period.
How long is the coverage for short-term health insurance plans?
Short term health insurance protection lasts from 30 to 90 days.