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No health insurance, no problem? Not quite. Going without a health insurance plan is a risky proposition. You may be healthy and free of medical conditions, but the unexpected doesn’t wait around for a more convenient time. Injuries and illnesses happen, and going without healthcare isn’t always an option. Are you prepared to pay for potential medical bills entirely out-of-pocket?
Short-term health plans – more traditionally called “short-term health insurance” or “short-term medical” – can help protect your finances when you don’t have an Obamacare health insurance plan. You can choose for your plan to last between 30 and 364 days at once.
Some insurers will allow you to apply for additional new certificates of insurance for up to three years at a time. State rules may vary.
In the following situations, it may be better for you to buy short-term health plans instead of going the Obamacare route:
1. You Need to Fill a Gap Between Employer Coverage and Your Next Job
As the saying goes, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Even if you think you’ll land a job with benefits right away, it is wise to secure temporary health insurance coverage.
When you are unemployed and in between job-based health insurance plans, it’s often tempting to wait it out and remain uninsured. After all, the strain of household budgets and health insurance premiums can break the bank. But so can unexpected medical bills.
Short-term health insurance premiums are often a fraction of major medical insurance premiums. Plans usually include benefits related to inpatient and outpatient hospital care, emergency room visits, surgical services, ambulatory services, and intensive care, among other things. If you reach the end of your policy and still need coverage, depending on your state’s laws, you can typically apply for and enroll in a new policy.
2. You’re in an Employer Waiting Period
The waiting period before new employees become eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance benefits may be as long as 90 days. It could also be as short as a few weeks. Depending on your circumstances, it may seem reasonable to coast through your orientation period uninsured. Why risk it?
A single month of short-term health insurance can be well worth the premium—often one-third of what major medical health insurance entails. Plan details such as deductibles and coinsurance can often be customized to your needs, and there is no waiting period to begin. Coverage typically starts within 24 hours after you pay your initial monthly premium.
3. You Missed Open Enrollment
Life gets busy. You may have put off making a decision or weren’t sure you could afford an Obamacare plan; then, before you knew it the Open Enrollment Period had ended. If you haven’t undergone a qualifying life event that makes you eligible for a special enrollment period (e.g., moving, getting married or divorced, adding a child to your family), you don’t have to spend a whole year uninsured.
Enroll in a short-term medical plan to get you by until 2020, or until a change in circumstances allows you to secure major medical health insurance. Though short-term health insurance plans are not compliant with Obamacare’s requirements, this coverage can offer peace of mind. Should you wind up in the emergency room or need an unplanned surgery, it’s good to have help paying for covered medical expenses.
4. You Qualify for a Special Enrollment Period but Are Waiting for Coverage to Begin
Turning age 26, getting married or divorced, adding a child to your family, moving and certain changes in income are a few qualifying life events that could make you eligible for a special enrollment period. This typically allows you 60 days to secure Affordable Care Act health insurance, even outside of open enrollment.
Still, depending on when you enroll in an ACA plan, your start date could be a month away. Pick up a short-term health plan to stay protected in the meantime.
5. You Retire Early and Don’t Yet Qualify for Medicare
Why risk your retirement savings on paying for major healthcare expenses 100 percent out-of-pocket? If there’s a little time between your early retirement and your Medicare eligibility, consider buying a short-term health insurance plan. Once you meet your deductible, your plan will help pay for additional covered expenses. It is important to note that temporary coverage may not be an option if you have preexisting conditions.
6. You Are Exempt from Obamacare
Most people are no longer required to buy health insurance. Still, don’t gamble with your future. Look into buying a short-term health insurance plan. While it will not cover preventive health care, it will help with serious illnesses, injuries, hospitalizations, surgeries and other potentially costly medical care.
Because short term health insurance plans don’t often require you to see network providers — though discounted care may be available when you do — you can choose your doctors. Plus, most doctors and hospitals accept short-term health insurance.
You can easily apply for and enroll in short term health insurance online. It takes only a few minutes. Depending on your needs, coverage can begin as soon as the next day.
Taking the Next Steps
It’s you’re in between major health plans, or looking for temporary health insurance to fill some immediate needs, it’s worth doing seeing what’s available in your area.
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