Health Insurance for Short Periods
Nobody plans to get sick or injured, but life can be unpredictable. If you’re unprepared for a worst-case scenario, you could feel the financial impact for many years to come — and you may never be able to recoup your losses.
Many people depend on their employer — or their spouse’s or parents’ employer — to provide the health insurance coverage that will protect them from a financial catastrophe. But many of us will face situations during our lifetime where employer-sponsored plans aren’t available to us. An unexpected job loss, for example, can leave us uninsured for several weeks, months or even longer. In other cases, we might be waiting for an employer-based plan to kick in, but in the meantime, there’s a coverage gap that leaves us vulnerable.
The Need for Interim Insurance Coverage
These are just a few of the examples of when you might need insurance to fill the void until you can get access to “permanent” coverage. Getting health insurance for short periods could save you thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Suppose you’re in an accident that requires a hospital stay of four days (the national average is 4.5 days). According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the average cost of spending one day in the hospital is approximately $10,000, which means that your total cost would be around $40,000 — and could be much higher if your stay includes ICU treatment, surgical procedures, etc.
Getting a One-Time Medical Insurance Plan
If you’re in the market for a short-term health plan, some of the factors you’ll need to consider are how long you’ll need the coverage for, and whether there’s a plan available that will encompass your desired time frame. For instance, if you’re facing a 90-day waiting period for insurance eligibility at a new job, a 30-day plan would be insufficient. Likewise, enrolling in an annual plan wouldn’t make sense if you’re going on your spouse’s employer-provided coverage within the next 45 days.
What Is the Shortest Length of Time That a Temporary Health Insurance Plan Will Cover?
You might be asking yourself, “Can I get health insurance for one day,” or “Can I get health insurance for one week?” The answer to both questions is “no.” When you’re looking for short-term coverage, you won’t’ find any daily or weekly health insurance options. Providing coverage for such a brief timeframe wouldn’t be worthwhile for you.
For instance, if you have an accident or illness that requires a 10-day hospital stay, a one-day plan would only cover a fraction of the costs. A daily or weekly policy also wouldn’t be cost-effective for the insurer.
Monthly Health Insurance Options Are Available
While daily and weekly health insurance coverage is not available, you can find 30-day health insurance plans — often at affordable rates. A monthly plan can be ideal if you’re sure that you’ll only have a short gap in coverage. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you won’t be without insurance if a medical emergency crops up in the interim.
What About 60-Day Health Insurance?
Maybe you need health insurance for a little longer than 30 days. Short-term health insurance plans that provide monthly coverage typically allow you to roll them over at the end of the month. The coverage will often renew automatically as long as you pay the premium on time.
Can You Get 6-Month Health Insurance Coverage? How About for Longer Periods?
California used to allow insurers to issue short-term health insurance policies for a maximum of 180 days. However, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 limited the length of these plans to 90 days. A medical condition such as cancer or heart disease that occurred during the coverage period could have prevented the insured from renewing the policy, leaving them without coverage for a potentially life-threatening health issue.
How Changes in the Law Impact Short-Term Health Insurance Going Forward
An executive order signed by President Donald Trump in 2018 has significantly altered the temporary health insurance landscape. In most states, individuals without coverage or who can no longer afford the skyrocketing Obamacare premiums can now buy 364-day plans with the option to renew for up to 36 months. People with certain pre-existing conditions may not be eligible.
California is one of the states that chose to deviate from Trump’s directive. A new law that took effect in January 2019 now prohibits insurers in CA from selling short-term health insurance altogether. People who require temporary coverage must now pursue other avenues, such as purchasing insurance on the Covered California state health insurance exchange or receiving COBRA benefits from their previous employer, assuming the latter applies to their situation.
Health Care Sharing Ministries Offer an Additional Alternative to Short-Term Health Insurance in CA
Although consumers can no longer purchase short-term health insurance for any duration in California, a Health Care Sharing Ministry (HCSM) can provide another cost-effective option. An HCSM is a faith-based organization that pools the financial resources of its members to help them defray their medical expenses. Although an HCSM does not qualify as insurance, it does function in much the same way. It provides benefits for items such as hospitalization, surgeries and primary care physician services, typically at much lower rates than traditional health insurance.
Health for California provides California residents and green card holders access to Aliera InterimCare, an HCSM plan that can provide coverage for up to 11 months. The plan offers the flexibility to renew the coverage monthly, which can meet your needs whether you need protection for 30, 60 or 180 days or longer. If you obtain permanent health insurance and no longer need the coverage, you can cancel InterimCare at any time without incurring a penalty.