If you ever find yourself without traditional health insurance, then short-term medical or temporary health insurance might be a practical solution. Short-term health insurance plans are easily accessible, and in Pennsylvania, these plans can last for as little as 3 to 6 months, or for as long as 364 days. You can enroll in a short-term plan outside of the open-enrollment period, making these plans an option if you’ve lost your job or can’t afford traditional health insurance premiums.1 Thanks to a rule proposed in 2018, you can now even renew your short-term plan for up to 36 months.2
Because short-term insurance does not meet the Affordable Care Act’s insurance requirements, these plans have different qualities than traditional Obamacare plans. While short-term plans are often more affordable than conventional insurance, they offer different types of coverage. If your short-term plan ends or you lose coverage, you might have to wait until an Open Enrollment Period — which is at the end of each year — to enroll in traditional health insurance.3
There are plenty of benefits to enrolling in Pennsylvania short-term health insurance plans. Still, you’ll want to fully understand all of the details of the plans that you’re considering.
How to Buy Short-Term Insurance Plans
Because short-term health plans don’t need to meet the requirements of ACA plans, these temporary plans aren’t offered on HealthCare.gov or the Pennsylvania insurance marketplace.4 Insurance providers do sell these plans directly, and in Pennsylvania, you can choose from a wide variety of providers:
- Companion Life
- Everest Prime
- Independence American Insurance Company
- National General
- Standard Life
Every provider and plan is slightly different, so to get the best rates and coverage, request quotes from multiple providers and compare them side-by-side. You can also use HealthCare.com to easily view the plans that you’re eligible for, all in one place. Short-term plans offer a variety of coverage and premium options, so shop around until you find the plan that offers the value and coverage that you need.
Is Short-Term Health Insurance Right for Me?
Pennsylvania short-term health insurance offers plenty of benefits, but you need to make sure that any plan you’re considering is right for you and your situation. Consider how these factors will align with your needs:
Short-term plans are often more affordable than traditional health insurance, carrying lower premiums, although they generally have higher deductibles. Short-term health insurance doesn’t offer the same coverage as a traditional plan, which is reflected in the plan’s price. This lower price may come with limits on prescriptions, maximum coverage per day, and specialty visits.5
Enrolling in short-term insurance is easy and fast, and there’s no need to wait for an Open Enrollment Period.6 If you’re approved and your payment is accepted, your coverage can start as soon as the next day.
Your Overall Health
Your overall health also plays an important role in choosing whether a short-term plan or traditional health insurance is best for you. If you’re in good health, have no preexisting conditions, and aren’t taking any expensive prescription medications, a short-term plan might deliver precisely the coverage that you need for a few months.
Be aware that many short-term plans exclude certain procedures and treatments like cataract surgery, mental health care, and joint replacements.7 Before enrolling in a plan, review its exclusions and compare them against any planned upcoming procedures or treatments.
If you are ever catastrophically injured, your medical bills could surpass the coverage that your policy offers. Having short-term insurance is better than having no insurance at all and can help to cover more minor medical bills on a short-term basis, but think about how you plan to use the insurance to make sure that it’s adequate for your needs.
Situations Where Short-Term Health Insurance May Make Sense
Short-term plans can be ideal during times when you can’t access or can’t afford traditional insurance. If you’re in between jobs or have just started a new job and aren’t yet eligible for your employer-provided insurance, a short-term plan can give you temporary coverage at an affordable price.
Why Short-Term Health Insurance May Not Be Right for Me
Temporary health insurance may be ideal for some situations, but it’s not always the right option. If you need health benefits offered by the ACA, short-term insurance won’t deliver these same benefits. A short-term plan doesn’t meet the comprehensive coverage requirements of the ACA. Some of those requirements include prescription drug coverage, preventative service coverage, and substance use disorder treatment.8
While health insurance plans under the ACA must cover preexisting conditions, that requirement doesn’t apply to short-term insurance plans. If you have preexisting conditions like cancer, hepatitis, or HIV/AIDS, a short-term plan may not cover those conditions or may deny you entirely.9
When choosing your health insurance plan, consider your current health, health risk factors, and the type of health services you’re most likely to seek. With limits on prescriptions and specialist visits, a short-term plan may be an ideal temporary option, but might not make financial sense if you have significant or specific health needs, like expensive prescriptions.10
If you have a gap in your insurance coverage, short-term health plans could help to fill that void until you’re able to enroll in a traditional insurance plan again. Before you shop for a short-term plan, you’ll need to understand all of the advantages and disadvantages that come with this type of insurance. Whether or not you decide that traditional health insurance or a short-term health plan is right for you, always read the policy carefully to understand costs, coverage, and exclusions to make the best decision for your situation.