In between jobs? Entering graduate school? If you need quick access to health insurance benefits, a short-term policy may be the answer. Short-term plans bridge the gap between your previous benefits and your next long-term medical plan. That way, you’re covered in case of unexpected or emergency health costs.
What Is Short-Term Health Insurance?
Short-term healthcare coverage was designed to be a basic, low-cost option that covers you for a few months to a year. You may be eligible if you are:
- Expecting a new job with benefits to start soon
- Looking for coverage outside the annual Open Enrollment Period for Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans (November 1-January 15)
- About to begin a graduate program
- Waiting for Medicare eligibility to kick in
- Aging out of your parents’ health insurance and searching for your own coverage
Be aware that in Illinois, as in other states, short-term medical insurance is meant to be a supplement rather than extended care. That means that if you have a preexisting condition such as a heart condition or diabetes, it won’t be covered.
State-Specific Laws and Regulations
States can impose their own restrictions on short-term policies, and the rules in Illinois are stricter than the federal rules. Illinois residents can get short-term health insurance coverage for up to six months, or less than 181 days. You can’t buy a renewal policy for a year (365 days) from the date your last short-term coverage ends. You also can’t buy a new short-term plan within 60 days of ending another.1
Keep in mind that if you buy a short-term health insurance policy in Illinois, you might be ineligible for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) plans, which guarantee you the right to purchase individual health coverage. In addition, renewals are not guaranteed.
How Much Do Short-Term Plans Typically Cost in Illinois?
According to PivotHealth.com, monthly premiums for short-term insurance in Illinois range from $79.79 up to $373.69. Deductibles begin at $1,000 and run as high as $10,000 for plans with less expensive premiums. For coinsurance, plans run from 20% to 30% of the covered amount. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses range from $1,000 to $10,000 and copays run between $1,000 and $10,000.
How Do You Buy a Short-Term Insurance Plan in Illinois?
Reach out to the insurance companies that provide short-term medical insurance. You can check their costs and what coverage they offer. Several insurance companies have filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to sell short-term insurance in Illinois. They are:
- Bankers Fidelity Life Insurance Company
- Bankers Life and Casualty Company
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
- Celtic Insurance Company
- Cigna HealthCare of Illinois
- Companion Life
- Continental General Insurance Company
- Continental Life Insurance Company of Brentwood, Tennessee
- Equitable Life and Casualty Insurance Company
- Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Company
- Health Alliance Medical Plans
- MedAmerica Insurance Company
- Medico Insurance Company
- National Health Insurance Company
- Quartz Health Benefit Plans Corporation
- Reserve National Insurance Company
- Standard Life and Accident Insurance Company
- Sterling Investors Life Insurance Company
- The Order of United Commercial Travelers of America
- United HealthCare Insurance Company
- United National Life Insurance Company of America
- World Corp Insurance Company
Is Short-Term Health Insurance Right for You?
When considering short-term medical insurance policies, it’s crucial to think about what kind of coverage would be best for you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Is my overall health good? Short-term policies have a lot of limits. Basic medical needs such as doctor’s visits, emergency and urgent care, and preventive care and prescriptions are covered. If you have a preexisting condition, need maternity care, or have a lot of medical issues, your coverage might not be enough.
- What’s my budget? Short-term health insurance policies cost less than long-term plans, but you might end up paying a lot more out-of-pocket. Think about your health — do you expect to need a lot of medical care? If so, you might want more comprehensive coverage.
- When do I want to enroll? Since short-term insurance is not considered essential minimum coverage, you won’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period after it runs out. That means you won’t be able to apply for an ACA policy until the annual Open Enrollment Period, November 1 to January 15.
- What is my personal situation? If you’re switching jobs, switching off your parents’ insurance, or going through another temporary transition, a short-term health solution might be best. However, some transitions — for example, if you or your partner is pregnant — are not compatible with this more stripped-down health coverage.
When Might Short-Term Health Insurance Not Be the Right Choice for You?
If you expect to need any of the essential health benefits required under the ACA, remember that short-term plans don’t have to cover them. These benefits include:
- Ambulatory services
- Chronic disease management
- Emergency services
- Laboratory work
- Maternity and newborn care
- Mental-health and substance abuse treatment
- Pediatric services
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative services
If you need any of these benefits, a short-term health insurance policy is not going to suit your needs and you should look elsewhere for coverage.
Whether you choose short-term medical insurance coverage depends on your personal situation — not just right now, but in the near future. If you’re looking to bridge a gap in health insurance coverage and you have limited needs, short-term insurance policies may be the answer. Research your options before you sign up to make sure a short-term policy is your best choice.