Moving Out of State? What to Do About Your Health Insurance

Updated on: May 28th, 2021

Reviewed by Jeff Kritzer

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Moving Out-of-State? What It Means for Your Health Insurance

In most cases, when you move to a different state, you’ll need to find new health insurance. If you’re joining a new company, looking for a new job, are self-employed, working part-time, or planning to stay home – but are not retired or on disability – you will have to sign up for a new health insurance plan. 

The only exceptions are if you are staying with the same employer, or you choose to continue your current coverage under COBRA, an expensive option. 

Keep in mind, even if you have a new job with benefits lined up, you may be subject to a waiting period of up to 90 days before you’re eligible to enroll in your employer-sponsored health insurance.1

Whether you’re buying your own plan or waiting to join an employer-sponsored plan,  you may be tempted to put off choosing new coverage until you’re settled in, but that can be a major risk. What if you get sick or injured during the time between coverage? You could wind up paying substantial medical bills out-of-pocket. 

Here are some options to explore as you’re getting ready to move and answers to common questions:

I don’t have employer-based health insurance. What should I do now, before I relocate?

Consider enrolling in short-term health insurance that will cover you while you move and as you’re settling in, especially if you’ll be looking for a new job. As mentioned above, even if you have a new job with benefits lined up, you may have a waiting period that could range from 30 to 90 days before coverage begins.  

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Buying a temporary health insurance plan, which only covers emergency care and major illnesses and injuries, will give you time to shop for a health insurance plan with minimum essential coverage. Keep in mind that these short-term plans are not offered on the federal marketplace or on state exchanges. You’ll need to buy them through private companies.  

Here are a few things to know about this type of coverage:

  • Short-term insurance plans can last as few as 30 days and as long as a year, with the option to apply for extensions depending on your health insurer and where you’ll be living.
  • These plans don’t include “essential health benefits” (as defined by the Affordable Care Act) or preventive care at no cost, since they’re intended only to provide coverage during a gap period when you’d otherwise be without insurance.
  • They focus on providing coverage for unexpected illness or injury and major medical care. A short-term health plan typically includes benefits for things like outpatient emergency care, surgery, ambulatory care services and hospitalization.
  • There are no provider networks, which means you have the freedom to choose where you receive care. Many plans are affiliated with networks, however, allowing you to receive discounted care for using their providers.
  • It’s easy to get coverage quickly. You can get a quote online at websites, complete the application and enrollment process in a few minutes and request an effective date as soon as the next day. 

Keep in mind that you could be denied coverage or find that you’re excluded from some types of coverage based on your health history and any preexisting conditions.

In some states, short-term insurance allows you to go without minimum essential coverage for up to a year. Most states, however, have a shorter time span, such as a 30- or 60-day plan. This can help bridge the gap between your previous major medical insurance coverage and your new, long-term coverage plan. 

These plans will give you peace of mind that if anything should happen — from a strained back caused when loading boxes into a moving truck to a sudden illness that lands you in the hospital — you won’t drain your savings getting the medical car you need. 

I’m in my new home and have short-term insurance. What happens now?

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 where you’re now living and research local doctors and hospitals. Then check plan networks to see they include those providers.

If the open enrollment period has closed when you need to buy a new Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan, don’t worry. Moving is what’s called “a qualifying life event,” which makes you eligible for a special enrollment period. You’ll have 60 days from the time of your move to enroll in a qualified health insurance plan through the federal marketplace, your new state’s exchange, or elsewhere.

What coverage is best for me if I live in another state only temporarily each year? 

If you’re a  “snowbird” or “sunbird” or do contract work in another state for part of the year, the good news is that the Affordable Care Act has taken this into account. The best approach is to choose health insurance in the state where you have your primary residency.2

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When selecting a policy, if you can, choose one with a nationwide network of providers to ensure you can stay in-network in the state where you reside temporarily. Consider how out-of-network care is covered as well and whether you anticipate needing any  specialists, tests, or mental health care, for example, and, if so, how your provider would handle those costs.

My kids are in college in another state. What’s the best coverage for them?

As long as your children are under age 26, you can cover them through your healthcare plan under the Affordable Care Act, even if they live in another state. Your adult child can even get married and still be covered under your ACA plan.3 Just make sure there are in-network healthcare providers close to where your child is living and going to school.

If I have coverage through my employer is there anything I need to do to ensure I’m covered in my new state?

When you move due to your job, whether you’ll have to change health plans depends on the type of coverage your employer provides. If you have an HMO plan, you will most likely need to select a new plan through your employer. 

If you don’t have an HMO, chances are the only thing you’ll have to do is change your address with your human resources department. But schedule a meeting with your HR rep anyway, and let them know you want to talk about health insurance as it relates to your relocation. There may be aspects to your plan that will change, such as your choice of healthcare providers in your new location.



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