What Is Short-Term Health Insurance?

Short-term health insurance plans are designed to protect against high medical expenses due to unexpected illnesses or accidents. Short-term health plans provide coverage for a designated period of time, so they are perfect for anyone in between long-term health plans.

  • Coverage starts the day after you enroll.
  • Enroll anytime. The open enrollment period does not apply.
  • You select the length of the plan – between 30 days and 12 months.
  • Short-term plans generally have lower rates than long-term health plans.

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Short-term health insurance offers protection for many of the most costly medical expenses due to unexpected injuries and illnesses. Benefits vary by plan but may include hospital visits, emergency care, doctor visits, and prescription drug benefits.

Short-Term Coverage is Ideal If You Are:

  • Between jobs
  • A recent graduate
  • Waiting for the next open enrollment period
  • Without employer-sponsored health insurance
  • A retiree who is not yet eligible for Medicare
  • Without adequate health insurance

Short-Term Health Insurance and Health Care Reform

Short-term coverage is not considered Minimal Essential Coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so even with short-term coverage you may be subject to a tax penalty.

Under the ACA, short-term plans are not required to cover pre-existing conditions or essential health benefits like maternity care, preventive care or mental health care.

Comparison of Major Medical and Short-Term Health Insurance  
  Major Medical Health Insurance Short-Term Health Insurance
Length of Coverage Long-term (annual) One to 12 months depending on state and insurer
Pre-Existing Conditions Covered Excluded
Preventative Care Benefits Covered Depends on plan
Availability Open enrollment or special enrollment period Anytime
May Offer Protection From the Individual Mandate Tax Penalty Yes No
Tax Credits May Be Applied to Lower Cost Yes No
Renewability Renewability Generally not renewable