Short-term health insurance provides narrowly-defined, cheap temporary health insurance (relative to major medical insurance plans). This short-term individual health insurance option does not meet the minimum coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act, but provides coverage of various medical costs for those needing an immediate solution.
Despite their short duration and limited benefits, short-term health insurance has grown more popular in the U.S. due to its affordability. As premium costs continue to go up, more Americans are viewing short-term plans as an affordable, if not ideal, coverage option. And for many uninsured Americans who seek coverage outside the Open Enrollment Period for health insurance, buying a short-term plan is their only way to get insured.
To be sure, short-term health insurance plans are relatively cheap–but not everyone qualifies for them. Insurers aren’t required to cover pre-existing conditions with these plans, so qualifying for this type of coverage is difficult for people who are ill or who have chronic health conditions. For those who do quality, here are some important tips you need to know when buying this cheap short-term health insurance.
1. Look for Customizable Short-Term Health Insurance Coverage
If you’re looking for a cheap, short-term health insurance plan, it’s important to find a policy that meets your individual needs. Look for a short-term health coverage that can be tailored – at least, to some degree – to suit your own healthcare needs. A quality short-term health insurance plan will offer policyholders a range of deductibles and coverage length options from which to choose. It’s also a good idea to go with a plan that can be dropped at any time without any penalties, if one is available.
2. Ensure Your Cheap Short-Term Plan Provides Access to Your Preferred Provider
When it comes to choosing temporary health insurance, it’s best to choose a reputable insurance provider with a strong network of doctors and hospitals. Nothing is more frustrating than selecting a new insurance plan, only to find out later that it won’t cover visits to your regular doctor. Since short-term health insurance plans tend to have smaller provider networks which limit policyholders’ options for choosing a physician, consumers should research their choices before signing up. They should make sure their preferred doctor is covered under the plan they want to buy.
Moreover, short-term medical plans which cover a wide range of doctors may also be less costly. Reputable insurers that have larger provider networks tend to offer better and more negotiable rates than insurers with smaller provider networks.
3. Pick a Policy with Strong Backing
Trust your instincts. If you have doubts about the credibility of the insurer who is selling you a cheap short-term health insurance plan whose low price seems too good to be true, it’s not a good sign.
Check if the providers you’re considering have their financial ratings listed on your state’s department of insurance website. Ratings typically start at ‘A++’ and go down to ‘F’ (there is also one rating for companies that are no longer financially rated, which is ‘S’).
Of course, it’s never a bad idea to consult with health insurance experts, friends, or family – and it never hurts to keep an eye on the stock market to look out for trends in the stocks of insurance companies you’re considering.
Additionally, the resources listed below can provide you with insurer financial ratings and STM policy recommendations:
- Consumer rating sites: Consumer Reports, Consumer Affairs, JD Power & Associates, Angie’s List or U.S. News and World Report;
- Third-party healthcare rating sites and the Better Business Bureau; and
- Health care forums for sites like WebMD or the Mayo Clinic.
Most insurers make it easy to buy short-term health insurance, but before you sign up, considering making a call to the company’s customer service line to gauge how they approach and handle questions. While the convenience and anonymity of a website application process is nice, it’s helpful to know how an insurance company treats its customers.
It may be worth it to pay a higher price for good customer service. Down the line, good customer service may be the the difference between a processed claim and a claim for which you are never reimbursed.
4. Read the Fine Print
Temporary health insurance seems like a bargain when you’re looking at monthly premium rates. On the surface, these rates seem awfully low, relative to the premium rates of major medical plans. In actuality, some seemingly cheap short-term health insurance plans cost more than people think, once you add up out-of-pocket expenses and coinsurance rates.
Before settling on a plan, read the fine print and review what is and isn’t covered under the plan. Check the deductible and ask yourself: are you comfortable paying its amount? How much will you be paying in coinsurance? You should have a detailed understanding of your coverage and what you’re paying for.
Taking the Next Steps
If you’re in between major health plans, or looking for temporary health insurance to fill some immediate needs, it’s seeing what short-term plans are available to you.