What Short-Term Health Insurance Is, and Isn't

Know what you're buying when it comes to short-term health insurance. In this section, we'll look at some of the key features of short-term health plans and see how they stack up to traditional major medical plans.

Short-term insurance is intended for temporary coverage

Since October 2018, federal rules have allowed short-term health plans to offer coverage for up to 12 months at a time, and made it possible for insurers to renew the coverage for up to 36 months (three years). However, the maximum policy duration may vary by state. Your coverage will end when the term you selected is finished, though you may be able to apply for an additional term of coverage after your first term is complete.

Short-term insurance is affordable

Compared to traditional major medical coverage, short-term plans tend to be relatively affordable. Between November 1 and December 15, 2018, the average monthly premiums for short-term plans selected by consumers at eHealth were $113 for individuals and $277 for families.

Average Monthly Premiums: Short-Term vs Major Medical Coverage *













Major Medical

Short-term insurance is limited

Short-term health insurance is primarily intended to provide you with valuable protection against out-of-pocket costs in case of unexpected injury or hospitalization. Short-term plans may not cover prescription drugs and typically do not cover maternity care or care for pre-existing medical conditions. Short-term plans typically place a dollar limit on how much the insurer will pay for covered medical services while you're enrolled. In most cases this limit resets with every new policy term, though some insurers set a lifetime coverage maximum.

Short-term insurance doesn't meet Affordable Care Act standards

The federal law called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) - otherwise known as "Obamacare" - introduced new rules into the health insurance market, requiring all major medical plans to provide specific benefits and requiring most Americans to have coverage. These rules do not apply to short-term health plans.

Short-term insurance is not normally guaranteed

When applying for short-term coverage it is possible to be declined based on your personal medical history. However, you can apply for short-term coverage yearround, and some short-term plans may be "guaranteed issue," which means insurers typically won't decline your application based on your medical history.


* Average premiums based on plans selected by eHealth shoppers at eHealth.com between November 1 and December 15, 2018.

Short-Term Insurance Compared to Obamacare Major Medical Insurance

Major Medical Coverage Short-Term Coverage
1.When can coverage start? Usually within 2 - 6 weeks Usually within 1 - 14 days
2.Can I buy it year-round at any time? No Yes
3.Can my application be declined because of pre-existing conditions? No Yes
4.Will it cover maternity care? Yes Most plans do not
5.Will it cover some prescription drugs? Yes Many cover prescription drugs in hospital but not retail prescription drugs
6.Will it cover visits to the doctor? Yes Yes, but typically not for pre-existing conditions or other exclusions
7.Will it cover things like hospitalization due to injury or serious illness? Yes Yes, but typically not for pre-existing conditions or other exclusions
8.Can it be purchased with a government subsidy? Yes, if you qualify No
9.Does it have a dollar limit on total benefits that may be paid by the plan? No Yes
10.Can I renew it every year, as long as the plan is available? Yes No, but you can re-apply up to two or three times
11.How long will my coverage last? Until you or your insurer cancels the plan Up to a maximum of one year in most states
12.How much does it cost? $448 per month on average for people who don't qualify for subsidies (see eHealth report) $113 per month on average, based on national average of plans selected at eHealth

This chart only provides general information about plan types. Information about Obamacare major medical plans is subject to change. The specific details of any particular plan can vary. You should always check the plan details to review any specific plan's benefits, limitations, exclusions, and other terms of coverage.

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