Short term health insurance has helped many Americans bridge the gap between insurance policies, offering fast coverage when you need it. No matter the reasoning — in-between jobs, recently removed from your parents’ plan or going through a life change — short term health insurance can help protect you in case of an emergency. This type of health insurance, however, isn’t legal in all states.
There is a lot of confusion regarding short term health insurance and New York law, so we’ll help clear up your questions below.
Explore Health Insurance in New York
Tip: compare 2-3 quotes
The Best Health Insurance in New York (NY):
- Best Overall in New York: UnitedHealthcare
- Cheapest in (NY) New York: Empire Blue Cross
- Best for Dental Services: Humana
- Best for Vision Options: VSP
- Best for Low-Income Vision Services: EyeMed
- The Best Health Insurance in New York (NY):
- New York Health Insurance Laws
- What is Short Term Health Insurance?
- Who Needs Short Term Health Insurance?
- Why Is Short Term Health Insurance Illegal in New York?
- Are There Other Options for Insurance in New York?
- Where Can You Enroll for Short Term Health Insurance?
- Best Health Insurance Options in New York
- Stay Healthy in New York
- Frequently Asked Questions
New York Health Insurance Laws
In 2019, the tax penalty for not having health insurance was removed, which means you’ll no longer have to pay if you’re uninsured in New York. Having health insurance is also not a legal requirement in New York state.
Unfortunately, short term health insurance is still illegal in the state for any resident. That means the only way to enroll in health insurance in New York is to select a plan during the open enrollment period (ending mid-December each year) or experience a major life change, which would allow you to enroll.
What is Short Term Health Insurance?
Short term health insurance is a type of insurance that offers up to 365 days of coverage. Many short term insurance plans now allow you to extend your coverage to 36 months (3 years), but state laws vary.
This type of health insurance offers some of the same benefits as traditional and Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans, often at a lower price. The major difference between policies is that short term health insurance has limitations to the services it covers. You can also be denied short term health insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
Most short term health insurance plans cover a portion of the below medical services:
- Emergency care
- Routine doctor’s appointments
- Prescription services
- Hospital care
- Physical therapy
While coverage varies from plan to plan, most short health insurance policies will not cover maternity care. Less than half of all plans cover substance abuse services and mental health services.
Who Needs Short Term Health Insurance?
Even though short term health insurance isn’t offered in New York, you might be curious about why anyone would want short term coverage instead of enrolling in a traditional plan. Short term health care plans were designed to help bridge the gap between traditional insurance policies. Here are a few cases where short term plans are often used:
- You just turned 26. If you were on your parents’ plan and you turned 26 recently, you have a limited amount of time to enroll in your own policy. If you don’t have a full-time job with benefits yet or if you’re currently in transition between school and the workforce, it may make sense to get short term coverage until a better option is available.
- Your job status has changed. Whether you’re in-between jobs, were recently fired or are starting a new job, short term health insurance might bridge your gap in insurance until your new benefits kick in.
- You missed open enrollment. If you forgot to enroll in a health insurance policy during open enrollment, it might make sense to select a short term health insurance policy if the alternative is no insurance at all.
In all of these scenarios, you should look into life change exemptions that may allow you to apply for traditional insurance options outside of open enrollment. You can learn more at healthcare.gov.
Why Is Short Term Health Insurance Illegal in New York?
Currently, short term health insurance is completely illegal in 3 states (New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts) and has severe provisions in other states. The ban on short term health insurance is considered to be in residents’ best interests. Here’s why.
Short term health insurance typically has more affordable monthly premiums. The recent changes to the length of time you can buy short term health insurance (extending to up to 3 years), can cause those who are enrolled to think they’re getting a good deal, preventing them from enrolling in a traditional plan during the open enrollment period.
This is dangerous because short term health insurance plans are designed to pay for your long term health costs. Since there are many provisions and limitations within these plans, using them for long periods of time can lead to serious debt and financial issues. To encourage participating in open enrollment, New York banned the use of short term health insurance plans.
Are There Other Options for Insurance in New York?
If you missed open enrollment, are unemployed or recently lost your benefits, you might be wondering what options are available to you.
Here’s what you should look into in place of short term insurance:
- Medicaid: If you recently lost your job, have no insurance or are a low-income resident of New York, you should try applying for Medicaid. This government-backed insurance plan offers more coverage than short term health insurance options and you can apply for assistance at any time of year.
- CHIP: If you have children who are uninsured but don’t qualify for Medicaid, you can apply for coverage through Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP has insurance options for children in New York up to 19 years old.
- COBRA: If you lost your job or benefits, you might be eligible for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage. COBRA extends a portion of your former workplace insurance benefits for a transition period, for you and your family. In New York, you can extend COBRA coverage for up to 36 months in many situations.
Where Can You Enroll for Short Term Health Insurance?
You cannot enroll for short term health insurance in New York but can enroll in an ACA plan on the marketplace at healthcare.gov. If you miss open enrollment, you can find out here if you’re eligible for any exemptions. You can also apply directly for coverage on a traditional health insurance provider’s website during open enrollment.
Best Health Insurance Options in New York
Even though you’re not eligible for short term health insurance in New York, it’s important to know some of the top providers for health insurance. We’ve compiled some of the top providers for health, dental and vision insurance in the state to help make your choice easier once open enrollment rolls around.
1. Best Overall: UnitedHealthcare
This insurance powerhouse offers an extensive network of providers, giving you more control over the doctors you see. It offers affordable policies to choose from, including Medicaid options for those who are eligible.
Its online platform clearly details everything included in each plan, making it easy for you to find the policy that’s right for you. UnitedHealthcare also offers plans with dental and vision benefits.
2. Most Affordable: Empire Blue Cross
No matter the amount of coverage you want, Empire Blue Cross has a plan designed for you. Empire Blue Cross offers traditional health insurance, as well as catastrophic options, designed to offer minimal coverage for a low price.
You can quickly find out if you qualify online and get a personalized policy quote. Empire Blue Cross also offers a great online resources section that can help you find answers to common concerns and insurance processes.
3. Best for Dental Services: Humana
While you can’t get dental plans without an insurance plan, in some cases you might select a provider based on their additional benefits, like dental or vision. Humana is a top name in the insurance industry and can provide you with extensive dental coverage in New York.
Humana offers affordable dental coverage for many top services — from checkups to dental procedures.
Humana does not offer orthodontist care, however, which is something to consider if someone in your family needs braces.
4. Best for Vision Options: VSP
VSP is the largest provider of vision insurance in the country and a top choice for anyone in New York requiring vision services. VSP is widely accepted throughout the state and offers low copays for eye appointments.
Family plans start at $40 per month, while individual plans can run you as little as $15. You may be eligible for VSP through your primary insurance plan, your employer plan or you can apply at vspdirect.com.
5. Best for Low-Income Vision Services: EyeMed
If you’re a low-income earner living in New York who requires vision services, EyeMed might be a better option than VSP. EyeMed offers significant discounts on vision care, glasses and contacts and even offers 40% on your second pair of glasses each year (one of the highest discount percentages).
EyeMed is also more affordable than most vision insurance policies, starting at $30 for a family plan and just $5 for an individual plan. EyeMed has a large network of providers throughout New York.
Stay Healthy in New York
New York doesn’t offer short term health insurance, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get coverage. Open enrollment in New York ended on January 31, 2020, but you may be eligible for an exemption. You should also look into Medicaid, CHIP and COBRA insurance options for yourself and your family if you’re unable to receive an insurance policy through your employer or the Marketplace.