It’s bad enough to try and keep straight the four “metal” plan levels sanctioned by the federal Health Insurance Marketplace and the high-deductible “catastrophic” plans available to certain healthcare consumers under the Affordable Care Act. Add short-term health insurance to the mix and lines really start to blur.
Time to separate myth from reality, fact from fiction. Here’s what you need to know about short-term health insurance, how to determine whether it’s right for you, and how to find the best plan if and when you decide that’s the case.
- It’s Not ACA-Compliant, But Things Are Changing
Short-term health insurance coverage is not currently compliant with the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare — which, contrary to popular belief, remains largely in place.
This is not to say that the ACA’s treatment of short-term health insurance plans will remain constant forever. Indeed, while confidently predicting future changes to federal health policy is a fool’s errand, consumers should keep close watch on Congressional and executive branch actions in the coming months and years.
- It’s Widely Available
Most major health insurance companies offer short-term health insurance coverage. There’s a very high likelihood that you’ll find a suitable plan in your area. To sort through the most relevant options and determine whether short-term coverage even makes sense in your situation, health entrepreneur Steve Dorfman recommends assessing your overall health insurance needs and gauging your ability to pay out of pocket (more on that below) — among other things. “Widely available” doesn’t mean “appropriate in all circumstances,” of course.
- It’s a Valuable Bridge in Common Life Situations
Short-term health insurance coverage really shines in certain common life situations, such as navigating a career change (expected or not) and bridging the gap between employer-sponsored coverage and Medicare eligibility. If you need temporary proof of insurance for any reason, short-term coverage can help as well.
- It’s Relatively Affordable
Compared with ACA-compliant coverage, short-term health insurance coverage is pretty affordable — at least, in terms of its monthly premium schedule. If you require extensive medical treatment, you’ll likely pay more out of pocket with short-term insurance than with a “metal” plan. But this might be a gamble you’re willing to take if you’re young, healthy, and keen on bridging a very short coverage gap.
- It Provides Crucial Peace of Mind
Sometimes, getting covered is half the battle. If you’re worried about your ability to pay for an unlikely but potentially costly health event, simply having health insurance coverage provides incalculable peace of mind, nevermind the potential financial and health outcome benefits.
It Can Be Super Short-Term — or Much Longer
Some short-term plans run as little as 30 days from their effective dates. Others stretch up to 90 days, and can be extended under some circumstances by “stacking” a new plan atop an old one. Under proposed federal policy changes, short-term plans may soon remain effective for as long as three years.
Your Perfect Short-Term Health Plan Is Out There
If it’s not already clear, this much is worth repeating: there’s a great deal of choice in the short-term healthcare marketplace. Your perfect short-term health plan is almost certainly out there, just waiting for you to discover it. Perhaps you won’t find it today, or tomorrow, or even next week. But, with persistence, you’ll uncover it sooner or later. And you’ll be better prepared to tackle whatever the coming months may hold.