Health Insurance

Best Short Term Medical Insurance Options 2021

Gavin Oxley
Gavin Oxley7 Jul 2021

Best Short Term Medical Insurance Options 2021

Short-term medical insurance is typically a coverage option that is used for basic health needs for six months or less due to an unexpected event, such as job loss. Short-term medical coverage can vary based on the plan from only including basic emergency care, to full coverage under more expensive programs. 

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Best Short Term Medical Insurance Options

Short-term medical insurance is designed for individuals with a lapse between primary medical insurance plans but can sometimes be used for those who are seeking care for emergency situations only or those who do not have regular medical and prescription needs. Short-term coverage is usually less expensive than long-term coverage plans.

Individuals experience lapses in insurance for many reasons. Unemployment, job transitions, and a change in company insurance providers may be a few possible reasons to seek short-term medical insurance. When considering which short-term coverage option to select, it is important to consider the cost, amount of coverage, and duration of the plan.

Some of the top options for short term medical insurance are:

  1. Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
  2. Medicaid
  3. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  4. Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace Insurance
  5. Independent Health Insurance

When applying for short-term coverage, the applicant will often be required to fill out a medical history document. Certain providers may disqualify an applicant from coverage based on certain medical conditions such as weight (as a marker for developing diabetes), pregnancy, or certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Some applicants may also be disqualified from receiving short-term medical insurance if they are eligible for the federal Medicaid program. Note that short-term coverage can also be used as a transition between employer coverage and being approved for coverage through Medicaid.

It is important to consider applying for short-term health coverage in the case of an emergency. Medical care is considerably more expensive without insurance and can cost you more to not have coverage in the long-run

Now let’s dive into each of the best short-term coverage options with a bit more detail.

1. Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

COBRA is for individuals who were previously covered under a group or employer insurance plan and wish to continue their coverage under their previous insurance provider. COBRA coverage is able to be applied to dependents who were also previously covered under the group insurance plan.

COBRA health insurance is often one of the most expensive options for short-term medical insurance. While costs may vary, an individual will pay no more than the full premium of your coverage and a 2% charge for the service. 

This will often be a sharp increase in the price previously paid for the insurance as the employer often pays the majority of the cost. If COBRA is being used as you transition between jobs, your new employer may be able to reimburse the cost of COBRA until your new long-term medical insurance begins.

When considering the tax implications of using COBRA insurance, remember that income taxes will be taken out of an individual’s total income before COBRA is paid for. This will generally be a larger tax than if the cost of medical insurance is paid before the income tax is taken out.

Detailed information about applying for COBRA and other information can be found on the COBRA government website.

2. Government Medicaid

Federal and state Medicaid programs can provide short or long-term coverage depending on an individual’s eligibility. Short-term medical care through Medicaid is generally available to individuals and families who are low income or experiencing financial hardship.

Eligibility based on income is determined based on taxable modified adjustable gross income. If an individual or family’s income is between 100-200% of the federal poverty level, they likely qualify for medical coverage. This income value varies by state and some states offer more programs than others depending on if Medicaid has been expanded in each state.

Income levels per state as well as each state’s Medicaid application can be accessed on the federal Medicaid website.

Unlike other short-term medical insurance programs, Medicaid does not require an individual to pass medical underwriting. Generally, no medical conditions will prevent you from being able to be accepted to the Medicaid program.

Short-term insurance under Medicaid may impact which providers you are able to see to seek medical care. Only about 70% of medical providers accept Medicaid as a valid form of insurance as opposed to approximately 90% that accept private insurance. Please contact your individual provider to see if they accept Medicaid benefits before seeking care.

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3. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) 

The most common short-term medical care for children is the federally funded Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP is available for children through the age of 18, depending on the income level of the parents or guardians. The qualification requirements vary by state. 

Income levels for eligibility are similar to that of Medicaid but are generally more lenient to ensure children who are in need get the coverage that they require. More specific information can be found on the CHIP website.

Each state offers variable benefits, but all include the minimum coverage of:

  • Primary care visits
  • Vision
  • Dental
  • Vaccinations
  • Hospital care - inpatient and outpatient
  • ER and Urgent Care
  • Labs and X-rays

Some services under CHIP come at the fee of a small copay, but all routine medical, dental, and vision check-ups are provided at no additional cost. All newborns whose mothers are already enrolled in either Medicaid or CHIP are automatically also eligible for medical insurance through CHIP.

4. Affordable Care Act Marketplace Insurance Plans

The Health Insurance Marketplace is a federally funded service that helps individuals and families enroll in affordable medical coverage through the ACA. The federally run marketplace offers insurance programs that are provided nationwide as well as a breakdown by state, but some states also offer their own health insurance marketplaces as well.

Many of these programs may be more affordable than an extension of your current long-term or employer coverage through COBRA, but most programs are not free. When applying through the Marketplace, you will be required to report income and household information to determine your eligibility for premium tax credits and savings.

In order to qualify for a Marketplace plan, you must be a U.S. citizen or national resident, currently live within the United States, and not be incarcerated.

To apply for short term medical insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, follow the following steps:

  1. Create a Marketplace account.
  2. Gather information needed to apply.
  3. Check eligibility results.
  4. Choose a plan and enroll.

Note that if you are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, you will not be eligible for savings for a Marketplace health insurance program. Individuals who apply through the Marketplace but are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP will be notified upon providing income and household information.

5. Independent Health Insurance

Independent health insurance is always an option to consider for short-term medical coverage. These plans are sought out by the individual directly from the insurer. Short-term independent insurance plans usually last a minimum of 1 month and a maximum of just under 12 months and are generally the most expensive option available for short-term needs.

Most of these plans offer a standard set of benefits with variations depending on the provider and the plan selected. Independent health insurance is generally more expensive than both Medicaid/CHIP and Marketplace plans but sometimes offers more benefits. Independent plans are often accepted by a larger range of providers than Medicaid and CHIP. 

Within independent health insurance plans, a deductible needs to be met through out-of-pocket costs before the insurance plan provides coverage. Once the deductible has been met, a subscribed individual only has to provide a copay to the coverage provided under the coinsurance plan.

Short-term independent insurance plans can vary anywhere from $50 to $300 per month, depending on the length of the plan and the amount of coverage. It is important to compare plans before selecting short-term medical insurance.

If none of these options look good to you, try a non-insurance option that gets you access to basic health care. Mira offers access to urgent care visits, lab testing, and helps you save up to 80% on your prescriptions for as little as $45 per month. Sign up and you could be covered as quickly as today. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Short Term Medical Insurance

It is important to understand the ins and outs of short-term medical insurance so that you are able to knowledgeably seek and obtain coverage in a timely manner. Below we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about this type of coverage. 

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Do short-term plans satisfy the coverage requirements for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act?

Short-term medical insurance does not count as having “Minimum Essential Coverage” which is required under the ACA. It is not considered individual health insurance coverage and therefore is not subject to all federal insurance regulations.

Are there alternatives to traditional medical insurance?

One possible alternative for short-term benefits may include a medical discount card. These cards allow individuals who cannot afford regular coverage to get shared savings across a large spectrum of providers. 

Additionally, if an individual does not anticipate having many medical expenses during a period of time, they may choose indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance pays a certain amount of the cost of care based on the care services received, regardless of the real cost. This is almost always a short-term plan that is best suited for preventative services.

Why are short-term medical insurance plans cheaper?

Short-term coverage plans are generally cheaper than long term and employer plans because they usually provide fewer services. This does not mean that the services that are provided under these plans are lesser in quality.

It is important to remember that short-term plans are not meant to be used in the long term and that an individual is encouraged to seek full medical coverage as soon as it is available and accessible.

Bottom Line

When considering the use of a short-term medical insurance plan, it is important to evaluate the cost and coverage of each plan - different plans are designed to provide different benefits to consumers. Short-term plans are designed to be just that - short-term. If you are needing care over a longer period of time, look into other programs such as Medicaid/CHIP and employer-based plans.

Mira can help bridge the gap between long-term plans through the use of a care membership for $45 per month, providing $99 urgent care visits, up to 80% off of prescription costs, and same-day lab testing with next-day results. Sign up today for short-term coverage through Mira! 

Gavin Oxley

Gavin is a 4th Year student at the University of Virginia, studying Medical Anthropology, Ethics, & Care as well as Environmental Science. He is passionate about providing healthcare resources and proper education in order to promote life and health for all.