Temporary & Interim Health Insurance
Most individuals depend on their employers for their health insurance coverage, but what happens when people lose their jobs or are looking for work? An accident or illness can occur at any time, and for someone without insurance, the consequences could be devastating. With the spiraling costs of health care these days, a sick or injured person could rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills. Without adequate insurance coverage, most folks won’t have the financial resources to cover them.
Interim Health Insurance Options
If you live in California and a job loss or unemployment has created the need to find temporary health insurance, you may have several options from which to choose. Not all of these alternatives are available to everyone, and a few of the choices may be cost-prohibitive for some individuals. In some cases, people with pre-existing medical conditions could have difficulty finding affordable coverage. Here are four potential options you may have.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law that allows employees to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance for up to 18 months (extensions are available in certain situations) after leaving a job. The good news is that these people don’t have to lose any of their health insurance benefits while they’re looking for a new job. On the downside, they must pay the entire premium amount themselves without assistance from their previous employer, which could make COBRA coverage unaffordable for many unemployed individuals.
2. Spouse’s Insurance
Married individuals may be able to bridge the gap between jobs by going on their spouse’s health insurance. While many companies have open enrollment periods for their employees — typically at the beginning of the calendar year — they may also offer special enrollment periods for specific life events. One example is when an employee’s spouse loses his or her insurance coverage due to a job loss. Of course, not all company-sponsored health insurance plans will provide coverage for spouses, and the ones that do may not offer special enrollment windows.
Another stop-gap insurance option that may be available to some is enrolling in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare. If eligible, individuals may be entitled to receive government subsidies that can lower their premiums. The Obamacare open enrollment window occurs in late fall to obtain coverage for the upcoming calendar year. However, some people may be eligible for a special enrollment period if they’ve lost qualifying health coverage within the past 60 days or expect to lose it in the next 60 days.
4. Covered California
Covered California is the name of the state health insurance exchange in California that provides access to coverage via the ACA. Individuals can purchase high-quality insurance policies from “brand-name” carriers such as Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente. As with Obama Care, Covered California has a specific open enrollment period each year. Individuals who experience a qualifying life event can take advantage of a special enrollment period to obtain coverage. These include the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance or when coverage under COBRA expires.
What About Short-Term Health Insurance Plans?
In many states, individuals can purchase short-term health insurance plans to provide gap coverage until they’re able to obtain “permanent” insurance. Sometimes referred to as “limited-duration insurance,” these plans used to only offer coverage for up to three months (six months in California). However, recent law changes now allow consumers in many states to purchase short-term plans that last up to 364 days with the option to renew them for up to three years.
Short-term health insurance plans are typically less expensive than traditional policies, but they also don’t provide the same level of coverage. For example, they won’t cover pre-existing conditions like cancer or heart disease, and they’re not required to provide preventative treatments. Additionally, these plans do not meet the standards for minimum essential coverage under Obamacare or the state health insurance exchanges, as they do not provide all of the “10 essential health benefits” required under the ACA guidelines.
Unfortunately, as of January 2019, short-term health insurance plans are no longer available to consumers in California. A bill drafted by the California State Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown now prohibits their sale within the state.
Health Care Sharing Ministries: An Alternative to Short-Term Health Insurance
While you can no longer purchase “traditional” short-term health insurance in California, there is another option that could meet your needs: a Health Care Sharing Ministry (HCSM). Technically, an HCSM does not sell health “insurance” — an HCSM a faith-based organization that offers health “plans” where members share the cost of their medical expenses by pooling their financial resources. Participation in an HCSM also exempts members from the penalties for not meeting the minimum essential coverage requirements under Obamacare (although this mandate has gone away as of 2019).
While HCSMs are not classified as temporary health insurance plans, they function in much the same way. Coverage kicks in after members meet their chosen member shared responsibility amount (MSRA), which is the equivalent of a deductible. Some benefits may also require co-expenses, which are similar to co-pays. An HCSM generally covers items such as primary care physician visits, trips to the emergency room, hospital stays and surgical procedures. They won’t include things such as pregnancies, pre-existing conditions and preventative care.
Health for California Offers HCSM Access in CA
Health for California can help you obtain high-quality HCSM coverage through Aliera Healthcare. Aliera’s InterimCare plan can provide coverage for up to 11 months, which can meet your needs if you’re between jobs or are waiting for eligibility to begin under Obamacare, Covered California or your spouse’s employer-sponsored plan. You can also use it as one-month gap insurance — you can renew the plan on a month-to-month basis and cancel it at any time without incurring a penalty.
Best of all, the rates are extremely affordable, which is a crucial consideration when you’re out of work.