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Is Short-Term Medical Insurance the Same as Obamacare?

Last updated March 18th, 2020

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Does short-term insurance qualify for Obamacare? Equating short-term health insurance to Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act or major medical care) is like comparing apples and bananas. Yes, they’re both types of health insurance. But beyond that, there are a lot of important differences between the two types of plans.

In short, short-term health insurance does not qualify for Obamacare, because it’s not the same thing. So how exactly do the two types of plans differ? And which one is right for you?

Short-Term vs. Major Medical Insurance: What’s the Difference?

Ideally, most of us will have major medical insurance. The benefits of having insurance under the Affordable Care Act far exceeds the coverage you can get with short-term health plans. However, there are times when short-term health insurance is a necessary option.

Short-Term Health Insurance (also known as temporary health insurance or short-term medical) is essentially a safety net for when you face a gap in your health insurance coverage. If you’re between jobs, leaving school, aging out of your parent’s health insurance, or losing your current healthcare plan, short-term insurance can offer an affordable solution when you most need it.

However, the amount of care and available services you can receive under short-term health insurance aren’t nearly as thorough as what you get with a major medical plan. Serious pre-existing health issues can also affect the amount you pay for a plan, or even affect your ability to sign up. Therefore, short-term plans should only be viewed as a temporary solution to your healthcare needs.

Obamacare is a type of creditable coverage, meaning that it meets all of the requirements laid out by the Affordable Care Act. These plans are structured around guaranteed coverage for ten essential health benefits. Obamacare insurance is “guaranteed issue” during the annual 6-week Open Enrollment Period, so you’re guaranteed acceptance into your choice of plan regardless of your health history.

With Obamacare, you may also be able to qualify for income-based discounts. These Obamacare subsidies are designed to make insurance more affordable if your household income is in a lower or middle tax bracket.

Here’s a comparison of the coverage you can expect to receive:

Short-Term Health Insurance Obamacare/ACA/Major Medical Insurance
Availability Join at any time Sign up during the annual Open Enrollment Period or qualify in special circumstances
Acceptance into plan You have to apply and be approved for coverage. Depending on your health history, you could be denied coverage. Guaranteed acceptance
Length of coverage 30 days to 364 days with 2 renewals (but it depends on the state) Typically lasts until the end of the year, then renews
Doctor visits for illness or injury Usually (varies by plan) Yes
Emergency services Usually (varies by plan) Yes
Hospitalization Usually (varies by plan) Yes
Maternity and newborn care Not usually Yes
Mental health and substance abuse care Not usually Yes
Pre-existing conditions coverage Not usually Yes
Preventative care Sometimes (varies by plan) Yes
Prescription drug coverage Limited (varies by plan) Yes (varies by plan)
Rehabilitative services and devices Not usually Yes
Monthly premium cost Customizable, typically between $50 to $150/month. Fixed. Can be as low as $0 with subsidies, or $150 to $750/month for those who pay full price.
Deductible cost Customizable, with deductibles usually between $2,500 and $10,000. Fixed, with deductibles no higher than $7,900 in 2019 before your plan starts to pay for care.

Choosing A Short-Term or ACA/Obamacare Plan

When it comes to health insurance, it’s true that you get what you pay for. While the rates for short-term healthcare are lower, you won’t be getting the benefits of Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans.

If your situation allows it, you should seek out major medical Obamacare plans that provide minimum essential coverage. These ACA plans are the best option for meeting all of your possible healthcare needs.

However, if you’re facing a gap in coverage or missed the open enrollment window, short-term healthcare is absolutely an option. While it is not designed as a lifelong solution, it does help protect you from healthcare emergencies and unexpected illnesses. But keep in mind, short-term plans can vary wildly on what they do and do not cover.

Regardless of which plan is right for you, it’s important you do your homework. Carefully check over any plan before you buy to make sure you’re getting the coverage you need.

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