I started Insurance Blog by Chris™ because I have a passion for insurance. Here at the blog, our job is to educate and inform people about the best insurance for them. Since then, we have grown into national brands with a large team of researchers helping people understand all forms of insurance.

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Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insu...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 1, 2020

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To sign up for regular major medical health insurance coverage, you’ll either have to wait for the annual open enrollment period or a qualifying life event.

But what if you need coverage before then? Let’s say your new job’s health benefits don’t kick in for three months, but your last job’s coverage ended on your final day with the old company.

Short-term health insurance could bridge the gap.

Best Short Term Health Insurance Companies

Here are the top 6 providers of the best short term health insurance in 2020:

  1. UnitedHealthcare Golden Rule
  2. National General
  3. The IHC Group
  4. Everest
  5. Standard Life
  6. LifeShield

UnitedHealthcare Golden Rule Short-Term Health Insurance

uhc insurance

Having offered short-term insurance policies for over 30 years, Golden Rule has developed a positive reputation with an A+ BBB rating and an A rating from AM Best. Under the UnitedHealth Group, Golden Rule underwrites short-term limited-duration insurance policies intended to bridge gaps in coverage.

  • These policies are available in 29 states.
  • Premiums start at $20 but vary based on a variety of factors.
  • Preexisting conditions, pregnancies, mental health services are not covered
  • Services like prescription drug coverage and preventive care may be limited.
  • All plans include some coverage for outpatient care, hospitalization, emergency services, and lab tests.
  • Policyholders can visit any providers within the extensive UnitedHealthcare network.
  • No out-of-network services will be covered, and a 25% penalty for going out-of-network may apply.
  • Coverage can also be canceled without penalty.

Consumers looking for last-minute STLD will find Golden Rule’s online quotes portal and next-day coverage options as a relief.

Lifetime maximums can be $250,000, $600,000, or $2 million. In most eligible states, consumers can choose from three or four benefit levels and a “Per Cause” or “Per Term” deductible structure, with deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $12,500. Coinsurance options are available between 60/40 and 100/0.

Through Golden Rule’s STLD insurance, customers can add on Supplemental Accident Benefit ranging from $1,000 to $12,500 to help in the event of an accident.

 

National General Short-Term Health Insurance

national general insurance

Known as GMAC Insurance until 2013, National General has provided a range of insurance products since its founding in 1920. The company is licensed in all 50 states and offers a selection of insurance plans under their Accident and Health division.

STLD policies are available in 35 states and can go into effect the day after enrollment.

National General’s Short Term Medical plans offer highly customizable options, meaning you can select a plan at the price-point that works for your budget.

You’ll also have your choice of in-network providers through the extensive Aetna Open Choice PPO Network, which boasts nearly 700,000 doctors.

National General’s plan covers lab tests, urgent care, diagnostics, and emergency medical services as well as telemedicine consultations, although limitations and exclusions apply.

Lifetime maximums of $100,000, $250,000, and $1 million are available through National General’s STLD policies. Consumers can set their deductibles between $1,000 and $25,000, although lower deductibles will result in higher monthly premiums. Out-of-pocket caps for coinsurance can be between $2,500 to $30,000, and coinsurance options fall between 50/50 and 100/0.

 

The IHC Group Short-Term Health Insurance

the ihc group insurance logo

A member of the IHC Group (short for Independence Holding Company), IHC Specialty Benefits oversees Short-Term Medical policies that are sold through the subsidiary Health eDeals. While this sounds complicated, it’s actually quite user-friendly.

Health eDeals is an easy-to-use online marketplace that shows customers a variety of policies underwritten by members of the IHG Group. After submitting your basic information, you’ll be shown dozens of policy options with the ability to choose exactly what you want and compare your top picks within the portal.

Premiums are competitive, but they’ll vary based on your demographics and desired coverage levels. However, you’ll be able to view the most and least expensive options in one window, which makes for easier comparison shopping. This is a nice alternative to competitors who offer only two or three benefit levels.

  • The IHC Group’s plans cover doctor’s visits, hospital stays, emergency care, ambulance transportation, diagnostics, and surgeries.
  • Like other STLD providers, they don’t cover preexisting conditions, pregnancies, prescription drugs, substance abuse treatment, or any injuries related to sports or high-risk activities.
  • Prescription drug coverage options may be available in some locations.
  • There are also no limitations on which providers you can see — but in some states, there may be discounts for staying within a PPO network.

The online quotes process is quick and easy, and next-day coverage is available in many cases. Customers can opt for monthly premiums or a one-time payment. If you’re not totally satisfied, you can cancel after 10 days thanks to a free-look policy.

Through Health eDeals, you’ll be able to see the costs of each plan you’re eligible for broken down side-by-side. Deductibles can be set at $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000. Coinsurance options include 80/20, 70/30, and 50/50. Lifetime policy maximums go up to $2 million — the highest available among our top picks.

The IHC Group offers other specialty products including group coverage, supplemental plans, hospital insurance, dental coverage, and pet insurance. When searching for and comparing STLD insurance through Health eDeals, you’ll have the ability to add on some of these other products as well.

The availability of these products may vary from state to state, but this is a great solution for individuals and families looking to enroll in a few policies through one provider.

 

Everest Short-Term Health Insurance

everest short term health insurance logo

Having earned A+ ratings from S&P and AM Best, the Bermuda-based company Everest specializes in insurance and reinsurance around the globe. They offer STLD medical coverage for U.S. customers looking for temporary protection when they’re without major medical insurance.

  • Their policies include coverage for routine doctor’s visits and emergency medical care, like most STLD providers.
  • They don’t cover preexisting conditions or non-hospital prescription medications. Out-of-network services aren’t covered.

To find out if Everest’s STLD plans are available in your state, call or contact the company online to request a quote. They don’t offer online quoting or next-day coverage, but policyholders can manage their accounts online. You have the option to pay on a monthly basis or pre-pay the premiums for the duration of your coverage period.

Once you sign up, take advantage of Everest’s free-look period and spend a little more time reviewing the fine print. If you’re not satisfied during the free-look period, you may cancel at no additional charge. You can also cancel your policy later on, or renew it with approval.

With Everest’s Short-Term Medical plans, customers are eligible for four benefit levels, with maximums for the coverage period ranging from $250,000 to $1.5 million, which is on the higher end. Their plans include five deductible levels from $1,000 to $10,000 and four co-insurance options between 50/50 and 100/0.

 

Standard Life Short-Term Health Insurance

An American National company, Standard Life and Accident Insurance Company, offers a suite of insurance products throughout the U.S. Their Short-Term Limited Medical (STM) offerings are available in 23 states.

Customers have the choice of two customizable options: Standard Life Select STM Plan 2 and STM Plan 3.

The latter features lower deductible options and higher policy maximums but comes at a higher monthly premium. Both cover a variety of inpatient and outpatient services, including limited mental health and chiropractic services, which are unique offerings in the STLD space.

Through Standard Life, you won’t face any restrictions on where you can seek medical services. However, you’ll have a somewhat lower coinsurance rate for out-of-network providers.

Also, keep in mind that hospitalizations and surgical procedures must be pre-certified if you want to receive the full benefits, or else you may see a 50 percent reduction to your coverage. This administrative detail may be easy to overlook in a medical emergency. However, policy specifics vary from state to state.

Most inpatient and outpatient services are assigned a lump sum that policyholders can draw from. It is worth referencing how much those services might cost. For instance, Standard Life only allots $250 for ambulance transportation, although such services can exceed $1,000.

You can request a quote online, and the approval process takes approximately three days for qualified applicants. This isn’t as quick as some of the next-day coverage providers, but it’s still a great option for anyone seeking a stopgap solution.

Customers can choose deductible options between $500 and $10,000 through STM Plan 2 or as low as $250 through STM Plan 3. Maximum limits per coverage period are set at either $250,000 or $1 million. Coinsurance options are 80/20 and 70/30, with a $16,000 out-of-pocket maximum.

 

LifeShield Short-Term Health Insurance

lifeshield national insurance company logo

LifeShield National Insurance Company underwrites its own Short-Term Medical policies. The two policies, LifeShield Flex and Lifeshield Advantage, are available in 30 states for six-month, 12-months, or 36-month terms.

The Advantage plan is more expensive on a monthly basis, but it offers enhanced outpatient and emergency protection. Beyond this, though, both the Flex and Advantage policies come with the same out-of-pocket maximums, deductibles, and coinsurance rates.

Policy specifics vary from state to state, but in general, LifeShield’s STLD insurance provides the standard coverages for emergency medical treatment and ambulance services, urgent care, diagnostics, and some preventative care.

Additionally, they extend coverage to some substance abuse treatments, mental health services, and physical and speech therapies. However, they don’t cover maternity care or outpatient lab services.

While all STLD policies are much more limited than major medical insurance, LifeShield’s is one of the more limited options out there. But their affordable policies make their Flex and Advantage plans worth considering. Just be sure to review the exclusions and limitations and compare their offerings with other plans you’re considering to get the best value for money.

The offer deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, 80/20 coinsurance or 100/0, lifetime maximums between $750,000 and $1 million, with per-day maximums ranging from $50 to $1,250 depending on the policy, all with affordable monthly premiums.

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What is Short Term Health Insurance?

Technically known as short-term limited duration health insurance (STLD or STLDI), short-term policies provide some protection for a limited period of time, as the name implies.

Because of significant limitations and exclusions, they aren’t designed to cover you for an extended period. However, recent events have made it seem as though STLD is a viable long-term option or a substitute for major medical coverage when it’s not. Let us explain.

How Long Can You Have Short Term Health Insurance?

STLD policies were once only available for three-month periods to cover the short-term needs of most consumers.

Due to updated federal regulations in 2018, STLD policies can now last up to 364 days and be renewed for up to three years in many states.

The decision summary explains that this extension was intended to “provide more affordable consumer choices for health coverage.”

How Much Does Short Term Health Insurance Cost?

Indeed, STLD is available for significantly lower premiums than regular health insurance. Policies may be available for less than $100 per month; some premiums start as low as $20. This could save consumers hundreds off of their monthly bills.

But there’s a major catch: STLD policies are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) consumer protection measures.

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What Short Term Health Insurance Does NOT Cover

Short term health insurance plans do not cover the following:

  • Preexisting medical conditions
  • Maternity care
  • Mental health services
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Prescription drugs

They also don’t cover all of the preventative care services you might expect a traditional insurance plan to take care of.

Short Term Health Insurance Details

Finally, STLD policyholders are subject to steep deductibles, copay, and coinsurance requirements, waiting periods, and dollar limits on covered services.

For instance, some plans only allow $250 for a thousand-dollar ambulance ride. Rates may vary based on gender, which isn’t allowed with ACA policies, and may experience more extreme fluctuations based on age.

STLD plans aren’t required to meet the minimum essential requirements for health coverage specified under the ACA, so most of them don’t.

Who Needs Short Term Health Insurance?

You might consider STLD insurance as a stopgap if you are:

  • A recent college graduate seeking employment with insurance benefits.
  • Losing your parents’ coverage after turning 26.
  • Losing your spouse’s coverage following a divorce.
  • Between jobs or looking for an alternative to COBRA insurance.
  • Retired and waiting to become eligible for Medicare.
  • Waiting for open enrollment or your ACA-compliant coverage to begin.

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Short Term Health Insurance Availability

It’s also worth noting that STLD isn’t available in every state.

It has been banned in:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York

It’s also rarely offered in:

  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington, D.C.

Residents of other states may have the option to purchase STLD insurance, although plans tend to vary by location.

It’s best to get in touch with an insurance provider to learn about available options in your state.

Should You Get Short Term Health Insurance?

Although STLD health insurance isn’t a reliable long-term plan, it can be useful to consumers who find themselves without traditional coverage for a limited amount of time.

For relatively low premiums, a short-term limited duration health insurance policy can bridge the gap with modest levels of protection until the time comes to switch over to a new ACA-compliant plan. Just make sure you understand the differences between ACA-compliant health coverage and STLD coverage before signing up.

While you’ll be the one to determine if STLD coverage is right for you, we advise you to be cautious when considering your options. Examine the fine print very closely, so you know what services and protections you are and aren’t getting. Pay extra attention to the exclusions and limitations, and don’t make any assumptions.

When it comes to STLD, it’s true that you get what you pay for. Most STLD providers don’t cover some of the essentials like prescription drugs, preventative care, and pregnancies.

They also might not provide as much financial protection against emergency medical care as you might expect. However, you may be able to find the coverage you need if you shop around.