When you move out of state, your health insurance won’t move with you. Whether you are self-employed, work part-time, stay at home, or are in the process of looking for a job, you will need to find a new health insurance plan. Even if you have a new job with benefits lined up, you may be subject to a waiting period before you’re eligible to enroll in employer-sponsored health insurance—by law, this waiting period may be as long as 90 days.Moving requires a lot of coordination, and it can get a bit stressful. As such, it may be tempting to put off buying a new health insurance plan until you are settled or your new job-based coverage starts. Delay your cable hookup. Delay unpacking your books and music. Do not delay securing health insurance. If you become sick or get injured before you buy individual coverage or your employer-sponsored plan begins, you could wind up paying substantial medical bills out of pocket.
But what if you do want to get settled a bit before making such an important decision? One way to seamlessly transition and stay insured the entire time is to first buy a temporary health insurance plan and then shop for minimum essential coverage.
1. Enroll in short term health insurance
Rushing into a health plan is never a good idea. We need to select coverage that is affordable, appropriate for our healthcare needs and includes conveniently located healthcare providers. Buying temporary health insurance plan will give you time to shop for minimum essential coverage on or away from your state’s exchange.
Temporary health insurance plans provide short-term medical benefits. They:
- Last as few as 30 days and as many as 90 days, with the option to apply for extensions depending on your health insurer.
- Will not provide essential health benefits or preventive care at no additional cost, since they are intended to provide coverage in between ACA-compliant health insurance.
- Provide coverage for unexpected and major medical care. For instance, a short term health plan typically includes benefits for things like outpatient emergency care, surgery, ambulatory services and inpatient hospitalization.
- Do not have networks, which means you have the freedom to choose where you receive care. Many are affiliated with networks and allow you to receive discounted care for using participating providers.
- May be quickly secured. You can get a quote online at websites such as HealthCare.com. The application and enrollment process takes only a few moments and requires you to answer a few basic medical questions. You may be denied coverage or experience certain exclusions based on your health history and preexisting conditions. You may select an effective date for coverage to begin as early as the next day.
Just think about all the things that can happen during a move alone—a strained back after lifting a heavy box, a broken bone from tripping and falling, a stress-induced flare up of an underlying medical condition. The Affordable Care Act allows you to go without minimum essential coverage for a single period of up to three months each year. A 30- or 60-day short term health plan will help bridge the gap between your previous major medical insurance coverage and your new plan—and avoid a tax penalty.
2. Shop for minimum essential coverage
Once your short term health insurance plan is in place, you’ve bought yourself a little time and can begin searching for long-term coverage. Become familiar with your new surroundings and research local doctors and hospitals; then, check plan networks to see if it includes those providers.
But what if open enrollment is closed when you need to buy a new ACA-compliant plan? Fortunately, moving is a qualifying life event that makes you eligible for a special enrollment period. You will have 60 days from the event in which you may enroll in a qualified health insurance plan on or away from your new state’s exchange.
Visit HealthCare.com to get a short term health insurance plan quote, explore ACA-compliant coverage options away from your new state’s health insurance exchange, and calculate your Obamacare tax credit. If you find you are eligible for a federal subsidy, visit your state’s exchange to shop and enroll in health insurance.
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 United States Department of Labor. EBSA Final Rules. “Ninety-Day Waiting Period Limitation.” Federal Register 79, no. 122. (June 25, 2014): 35943. http://webapps.dol.gov/FederalRegister/HtmlDisplay.aspx?DocId=27660&AgencyId=8&DocumentType=2.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated May 1, 2017 to reflect new federal limits on short-term medical plans.