Finding Temporary Health Insurance: How to Cover Gaps Up to 6 Months
Health insurance coverage gaps happen all the time, to folks from all walks of life.
No matter how good you are at planning, all it takes is a layoff, reduction in status from full to part time, or change in your employer’s health insurance coverage options to throw your health insurance world into a tailspin. And that’s not even counting pre-planned events that could complicate your health insurance coverage, like a move across state lines or a decision to go back to school.
Fortunately, covering relatively short gaps in health insurance coverage is doable. Let’s take a closer look at your short-term coverage options and what you need to do to take advantage of them.
What Is Temporary Health Insurance and Who’s a Good Fit?
For an ostensible stopgap, temporary health insurance (also known as “short-term health insurance”) is surprisingly versatile. It’s appropriate for individuals and families in a wide range of situations, including those between jobs, those waiting for marketplace open enrollment periods to begin, and those waiting for Medicare eligibility, says Florida health executive Steve Dorfman.
Importantly, short-term health insurance is medically underwritten. If you’re seeking family coverage, every covered individual will need to meet the plan’s medical underwriting standards.
Temporary health insurance may also elide coverage for pre-existing conditions, according to an AARP explainer. If you’ve been diagnosed with a qualifying condition within the past two to five years, you may not be eligible for enrollment in some temporary health plans. Check with your insurer and with your state’s health insurance regulator for specific information about eligibility exclusion timeframes.
Finally, it bears repeating that temporary health insurance plans generally do not meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum essential coverage (MEC) requirements. While this deficiency isn’t as relevant to healthcare consumers in the wake of the repeal of the individual mandate, it’s important to keep in mind should the regulatory ground shift again.
Enrolling in Temporary Health Insurance
Under current regulations, temporary health insurance plans can’t endure longer than 90 consecutive days. Though this may change in the near future, it’s important to keep in mind for the time being.
If you anticipate a gap of just 90 days or less, simply apply for the temporary plan that best fits your needs. Some plans begin coverage as soon as one business day after approval; be sure to check on this before signing up.
If you anticipate a longer coverage gap, you’ll need to sign up for two short-term health insurance plans at once. Many insurers allow you to do this without re-applying once the first plan’s coverage expires, though you’ll need to sign two complete sets of application documents. Confirm that the coverage under the second plan begins as soon as the first plan expires.
Before attempting this maneuver, check with your state insurance regulator to ensure that it permits back-to-back short-term plans. Not all states are so generous; if you can only enroll in one plan at a time, you’ll need to re-apply before your first plan’s coverage expires.
One final item to note: like any insurance policy, your short-term plan will require an initial premium payment before it goes into effect. The good news is that short-term plan premiums tend to be far lower than premiums for longer-term plans that offer more extensive coverage. Still, if you’ve been without health coverage for some time, make sure you have sufficient funds to cover that first payment.
Get Your Health Insurance Gaps Covered
Health insurance gaps happen for all sorts of reasons. Some are difficult or impossible to see coming. Once you’ve picked yourself up and begun thinking intentionally about what comes next, it’s time to plug ‘em.
As we’ve seen, covering health insurance gaps with or without foreknowledge is no insurmountable challenge. But you’ve got to take the first step. Here’s to getting and staying covered, no matter what life throws your way.