Health Insurance

What is Short Term Health Insurance & Where to Get It?

Gavin Oxley
Gavin Oxley4 Aug 2021

If you consider making a life change where you will temporarily lack long-term health insurance, you may want to consider short-term health insurance. Short-term health insurance can be used when you don’t have employer-sponsored health insurance or other long-term health insurance options. 

By paying $45 per month with Mira, you can get urgent care visits for $99, up to 80% discounts on out-of-pocket prescription costs, and same-day lab tests. Sign up as soon as you are ready to begin your short-term coverage.

What is Short Term Health Insurance

Short-term health insurance is used for gaps between employer-sponsored or other long-term health insurance options. These plans usually last anywhere between one month to one year. Short-term plans have no coverage requirements and vary by plan and provider.

Many short-term health insurance providers will limit the number of times you can purchase the maximum amount of coverage consecutively; this ensures that the company provides a range to those who need benefits for short periods of time, and those without insurance cannot take advantage of the program in the long term.

Some of the most common reasons for needing short-term coverage may include but are not limited to the following:

Short term medical insurance usually will cover the following expenses:

  • Hospital room and board
  • Emergency room visits
  • Inpatient doctor stays

While other unexpected conditions may be covered, short-term health plans will never cover maternity or newborn expenses.

Qualifying for Short Term Health Insurance

As opposed to ACA health insurance plans, short-term plans do not require applicants to meet specific qualifications. While many individuals can qualify for and purchase short-term coverage, certain conditions need to be completed and understood. 

Short-term health insurance plans will not cover pre-existing medical conditions. These plans are designed to protect any new medical occurrences. They can sometimes cover other conditions occurring after the plan takes effect, such as mental health and psychological services or addiction and substance abuse treatment.

Other reasons that might automatically disqualify you from being accepted to a short term health insurance program may include:

  • Not being a legal US citizen or legal US resident
  • Having qualified for Medicaid
  • Being insured under another health insurance policy
  • Having been diagnosed and treated for HIV/AIDS
  • The insured person being pregnant
  • Being overweight/obese - men must weigh under 300 pounds, and women must weigh under 250 pounds.

These are automatic disqualifiers for many insurance providers due to the increased risk some of these conditions incur. Some insurers may decide that one or more of these conditions are not reasons to be disqualified. Check with your insurance provider before purchasing a plan.

If you do not qualify for short-term health insurance, other options may be available such as an Affordable Care Act plan compliant with all Minimum Coverage Requirements. Other options may include accident insurance, critical illness insurance, or fixed-benefit indemnity medical insurance. Purchasing a care membership through Mira does not require you to meet any health qualifications. 

Advantages of Short Term Health Insurance

While you are only using short term medical insurance for a set period, there are unique benefits that are important to know about most coverage plans:

  • Coverage often begins the day after the application is submitted - in the case of Mira, the care membership starts immediately.
  • Customizable deductible and plan lengths
  • Ability to change to a more permanent plan immediately, with no termination penalties
  • Accepted at a variety of locations
  • Generally lower premiums than ACA health insurance plans

Disadvantages of Short Term Health Insurance

While many short-term plans will meet the needs that they are purchased for, short-term plans have inevitable short-term downfalls when it comes to coverage. Short-term health insurance plans are not required to meet the Minimum Essential Coverage benchmark under the Affordable Care Act. They, therefore, do not always provide the most inclusive coverage options.

Without meeting the Minimum Essential Coverage requirements with your short-term plan, you will still be required to pay an ACA tax penalty. It is possible to find a short-term plan that does meet the Minimum Essential Coverage requirements, in which case you will not have to pay the tax penalty.

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Where to Get Short Term Health Coverage and Benefits

It is essential to understand your options when purchasing short-term health coverage to make the best and most informed decision for yourself. Short-term coverage usually varies in price from approximately $50-$300 per month, depending on the extent of the coverage.

If any of these options are not available, check if you are eligible for the federal or state Medicaid plans or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Independent Short Term Health Insurance

Independent short-term coverage is likely an expensive option but is also the most customizable plan. You will be able to choose a plan that fits your specific needs during the time every month between long-term plans and not have to pay for unnecessary services that may be included if you choose COBRA.

A deductible will need to be met with independent plans before any of the services are covered under the new short-term plan. Once the deductible has been met, you will only have to pay the copay or coinsurance, which is usually a much smaller percentage of the standard out-of-pocket price.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

COBRA is a program used to extend the benefits of your previous insurance plan until you can obtain a new long-term plan. The usage of COBRA is most common as an individual is transitioning between jobs and thus transitioning between employer-sponsored insurance plans.

By purchasing a COBRA plan, you agree to pay the full premium of your plan, including the percentage of the plan that was previously funded by your former employer and a 2% service charge. These plans will cover all dependents that were previously enrolled in the employer-sponsored program.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace Insurance

Plans from the Affordable Care Act Healthcare Marketplace are federally funded initiatives that make health coverage affordable and available to individuals in the interim of long-term coverage through employers. These plans are more affordable than independent plans or COBRA, but these plans are not free.

To qualify for a plan through the Marketplace, you must:

  • Be a current U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident
  • Currently reside in the U.S.
  • Not be incarcerated

Note that to qualify for plans through the ACA Healthcare Marketplace, you can not have already qualified for Medicaid or CHIP. If you are eligible for either program, you must enroll in that program or purchase independent short-term coverage.

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Short Term Health Insurance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Short-term insurance options can be confusing. Here we outline some key questions that are common when discussing short-term health insurance.

Is it necessary to find short-term coverage between jobs?

Even if the time between long-term plans is short, having coverage can be essential to avoiding steep medical costs in the case of an emergency. Insurance experts advise that individuals should always be covered as health emergencies can occur at any time.

Are there cheaper alternatives than insurance over the short duration I will be without employer-sponsored coverage?

One alternative to purchasing short-term insurance is a care membership. Health care memberships offer discounts on essential services by paying a monthly fee. 

Another option may be a medical discount card. These cards provide shared savings across several selected providers.

Am I able to extend my plan if I do not find long-term insurance immediately?

Most providers will allow you to extend your plan by paying another fee. Many plans are purchased every month and can be extended for up to a year. Some providers place a cap on the maximum time to get previously funded plans to get previously covered under their short-term plan.

Bottom Line

It is essential to have health coverage in the case of a medical emergency between long-term insurance. While there are many options out there, it is necessary to understand what services you are looking to have covered and decide what plans match those criteria.

While Mira is not health insurance, having a care membership is a much more affordable option and still provides basic coverage when you need it most. By paying $45 per month, you immediately gain access to $99 urgent care visits, up to 80% prescriptions, and same-day laboratory testing. Sign up to receive your interim benefits today,

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.