Short-term health insurance (STM), also referred to as temporary health insurance, is a type of medical coverage that is available for shorter durations of time, such as up to three months. Temporary insurance plans have more restricted coverage than major medical but also can have a lower premium.
Covered expenses for temporary health insurance plans generally include the high-dollar, unexpected care and treatment you may require as a result of an illness or injury – from a serious medical event like a heart attack or stroke to a broken leg or doctor’s office visit due to illness.
Remember, these plans are highly customizable (that’s one of the perks!). The chart below describes benefits that may be covered with short-term medical policies.
Individual insurance plans vary, so you’ll want to read the plan details closely to validate the coverage and benefits you’ve selected and what exclusions apply.
Hospital room and board
Emergency room – anesthesiology and surgical care
Diagnostic services – X-rays, laboratory tests and analysis
Ambulance and surgical services
Injuries or illness related to participating in extreme or dangerous activities
Medical costs resulting from injury from riding an ATV (dirt bike, snowmobile, go-cart), racing with a motorcycle, boat or any form of aircraft
Treatment of pre-existing conditions
Any medical expenses incurred prior to the effective date or after the expiration date of your policy
Tobacco, drug, and alcohol-related treatment expenses
Here are a few of the pros and cons to consider when you’re thinking about signing up for a short-term health plan.
Apply year-round – There is no official open enrollment period and, in most cases, coverage begins the next day after you enroll online.
Don’t pay for coverage you don’t need – Plans are highly customizable; you can choose from various health benefit levels.
Keep Your Doctor – No provider network limitations means you can visit your preferred health care provider.
Short-term plans can be used alongside other supplemental insurance options such as a hospital plan, dental plan or a prescription drug card (not an insurance product).
Plans are limited to 30 to 90 days – Under current ACA legislation, short-term plan durations must be 90 days or less.
Less coverage than major medical – Preventive care and many other essential health benefits such as annual doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, vaccinations, and pre- and post-natal care are not covered. If you think you will need any of the 10 essential health benefits guaranteed by the ACA-qualifying plans, then a short-term health plan may not be right for you.
Pre-existing conditions are not covered – Historically, short-term plans have not covered pre-existing conditions.
Legal Disclaimer: The above list is not a complete list of pros and cons.
Temporary health insurance plans are best for people who:
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COBRA is not your only option for health insurance if you find yourself unemployed.
Losing your job qualifies you for a special enrollment period for major medical, and there are alternatives like short-term health (available year round) as well.
What should you do if you don't get health insurance through your employer?
You may need to purchase major medical coverage on your own, or enroll in an alternative health plan.
Prefer Non-Obamacare Options
Can you buy health insurance that isn’t Obamacare? Yes.
It’s important to note that Obamacare alternatives are not comprehensive health plans and have less coverage than Obamacare plans.
Here’s how to use a short-term health insurance plan:
When you apply for short-term health benefits, you pay monthly premiums in order to receive coverage for eligible medical expenses.
When you get hurt or sick, go to your preferred hospital and obtain the necessary medical services, presenting your insurance card.
The hospital bills your short-term insurance carrier, who pays its share of eligible medical expenses and bills you for your share.
When you get billed for the services, you will be responsible for the deductible amount, just like any medical insurance policy.
After paying the deductible amount, you are responsible for a percentage of the remaining expense (called “coinsurance”).
Once you’ve reached the out-of-pocket maximum for your policy, your insurance plan pays 100% of the remaining covered medical expenses up to the “coverage-period maximum benefit.”
 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Fact Sheet: Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance Proposed Rule.” Feb. 20, 2018. https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2018-Fact-sheets-items/2018-02-20.html
 Lower, A. (2018). Average Short-Term Health Premium Creeps Lower | ThinkAdvisor. ThinkAdvisor. Retrieved 19 April 2018, from https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/11/13/average-short-term-health-premium-creeps-lower