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Short Term Health Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

Is Short-Term Health Insurance the Right Choice for Me?

Short-Term health insurance plans, sometimes called Term health insurance or Temporary health insurance, are designed to bridge gaps in your health care coverage during times of transition.1

Short Term or Temporary health insurance plans may make sense if you are:

  • Rolling off your parent’s insurance
  • In between jobs
  • Without health insurance, have missed Open Enrollment and do not have a qualifying event for Special Enrollment
  • Waiting for your Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage to begin
  • Waiting for benefits to begin at a new job
  • Waiting for Medicare
  • Needing a temporary alternative to COBRA insurance
  • Losing coverage following a divorce
  • Under 65 and in good health

In these situations and others where you find yourself temporarily lacking health care coverage, choosing a Short-Term health insurance plan may be just the security you need to get you to that next stage of your life.

Learn Who Could Use a Short Term Health Insurance

Can I Cover My Family with Short Term Insurance?

Yes, you can cover spouses and dependents with Short Term insurance. Note: All family members will be subject to the same series of medical questions to determine if they are eligible for the plan.

Can I Avoid Federal ACA Tax Penalties with a Short-Term Health Insurance Plan?

Short-Term health insurance is not “minimum essential coverage” as defined by the ACA. As of January 1, 2019, there is no federal tax penalty for not having minimum essential coverage. If you didn't have minimum essential coverage for any month in 2018, you may have to make a payment when you file your tax return unless you qualify for an exemption from the requirement that you have health coverage for that month.

Possible exemptions to the ACA tax penalty include:

  • You went without ACA health care coverage for less than three months during the year.
  • You don’t file taxes because your income is below the tax filing threshold.
  • Coverage would cost you more than 8% of household income.
  • You applied for but were denied Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage.

Penalties may vary by state. Consult your tax advisor for more information.

Do I Need to Buy Short Term or Temporary Health Insurance During a Certain Enrollment Period?


No. Unlike health insurance plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, which you can buy only during Open Enrollment each year or during a qualified Special Enrollment time, you can apply for Short Term or Temporary health insurance at any time.

Short Term Health Insurance Plans offered 265 days a year

How Soon Can I Get Covered?

Next Day coverage on Short Term Medical Plans


As early as the next day after you apply in many cases.

Do Short-Term Insurance Plans Meet Affordable Care Act (ACA) Requirements?

No. Short Term plans are not ACA, or Obamacare, health plans. While both ACA and Short Term health insurance plans are considered major medical, or comprehensive, health plans and cover major health events in your life, there are important differences.

ACA health plans are guaranteed issue, meaning you cannot be denied coverage based on preexisting conditions. Also, ACA health plans are required to cover 10 essential health benefits:

  1. Doctor visits for illness and injury and other outpatient care (ambulatory services)
  2. Emergency services
  3. Hospitalization
  4. Maternity and newborn care
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services
  6. Prescription drug coverage
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (relearning to walk after a stroke and improving ability to speak without an impediment)
  8. Laboratory tests and services
  9. Preventive and wellness care
  10. Pediatric services (including both oral care and vision care)
Affordable Care Act Mandated Coverage

In contrast, Short Term health insurance is not required to cover all these benefits, so plans can vary in what they cover. Also, Short-Term insurance plans typically do not cover preexisting medical conditions. You must apply and answer a series of medical questions to determine your eligibility for these plans.

How Do Short Term Medical Insurance Plans Handle Preexisting Conditions?

Short Term medical insurance typically does not cover preexisting medical conditions. The definition of preexisting condition varies by state, but, in general, Short Term health insurance plans exclude coverage for conditions that have been diagnosed or treated within the previous 2 to 5 years.

If you have an existing medical condition, you may want to find out whether you can extend your current insurance. Employer-sponsored insurance may be extended under COBRA (or a similar state program).

Are There Ways I Can Lower My Costs for Short Term Health Insurance?

Yes. Your premium is the amount you pay for health insurance coverage for a specific period of time, usually paid monthly. If premium cost is one of your main concerns, you can make some choices that can help you find the best Short Term health insurance rates for your situation:

Choose a higher deductible. The deductible is what you have to pay of the expenses covered by your insurance plan before the insurance will pay anything. If you choose a higher deductible, meaning you pay more before the insurance starts paying, you can reduce your premium.
Choose a plan with fewer benefits. Not all Short Term health insurance plans are the same. Just as with Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance, you will find different levels of coverage available with different benefits for different prices. For example, you can control if your plan includes copays, a fixed dollar amount you pay, for a doctor’s office visit or if you want to include prescription drug coverage.
Pay your total premium up front. If you can pay the total premium for the amount of time you want to be covered up front, you can save 24% when you pay in that one lump sum versus paying monthly.2
24 Percent Savings on Short Term Health Insurance
Choose a Per Cause Deductible option. With some Short Term Medical insurance plans underwritten by Golden Rule Insurance Company, you can take more responsibility by paying a separate deductible for each illness or injury, as opposed to one deductible for your whole term. By doing so, you can reduce your premium by about 10%.3
10 Percent Savings on Short Term Health Insurance

Can I Get Federal Tax Subsidies to Help Pay for Short Term Insurance?

No. Because temporary insurance plans are not minimum essential coverage as defined by the ACA, you are not eligible for tax subsidies to help pay for them. However, generally, Short Term health insurance plans cost less than ACA health plans.

What If I Don’t Need Coverage For As Long As I Thought?

No problem. You can drop your coverage at any time without penalty and receive back premium paid after termination date.

Can I Keep My Doctor?

Yes. UnitedHealthcare offers one of the largest networks in the U.S. With access to nearly 1.3 million physicians and other health care professionals, and approximately 6,000 hospitals and other medical facilities,4 chances are your current doctor is already a part of our nationwide network.

Health care professionals in our network agree to provide you quality care at lower fees.

Find a Doctor in the UnitedHealthcare Network

Are Prescriptions Covered?

Sometimes. Prescription coverage is available with some temporary insurance plans. Check specific plans for details.

Is Preventive Care Covered?

Sometimes. Preventive care coverage, if included, is limited. Check specific plans for details.

How Long Can I Have Coverage?

In many states, the new federal rule returned Short Term Limited Duration Insurance to a term of less than 12 months (364 days). However, term lengths vary by state. Check your state's plan brochure for details.

Can I Renew My Temporary Health Insurance Plan?

The new federal rule allows for a 36-month maximum duration of renewable coverage. However, many Short Term health insurance plans are issued for a specific period of time and are not renewable.

Still, once your term is up, you can apply for a new Short Term plan.5 Remember, this is not an extension of your current plan. Any illness or condition you develop while covered under your current plan would be considered a preexisting condition for the new plan.


How to Renew Your Short Term Health Insurance Plan

Do Short-Term Insurance Plans Have High Deductibles?

Not necessarily. Your deductible is what you have to pay of the expenses covered by your insurance plan before the insurance will pay anything. Short Term Medical insurance plans6 underwritten by Golden Rule Insurance Company allow you to choose your deductible level from options starting at $1,000.

If I Apply for a Temporary Insurance Plan, Am I Obligated to Buy

No. You are under no obligation to buy a plan when using our site. After submitting your application, you may cancel it at any time during the underwriting process.

We do charge a $20 application fee for our Short Term health insurance plans in most states.

Do I Have to Choose a Specific Primary Care Provider (PCP)?

No. Some health plans make you select a primary care provider or primary care physician (PCP) to be the main health care professional who takes care of you. With Short Term Medical insurance plans,6 you can go to any qualified health care provider you choose at any time.

Do I Need a Referral to See a Specialist?

No. A referral is a type of pre-approval some health plans require where your primary care provider (PCP) must refer you to another doctor or for a specific service for that visit or service to be covered by the plan. With Short Term Medical insurance plans,6 you can go directly to any specialist of your choice without needing a referral.


Picking a health care provider or a specialist that is in the extensive UnitedHealthcare network may save you money because the providers agree to provide quality care at reduced rates.

1 Short term plans are medically underwritten. This coverage is not required to comply with certain federal market requirements for health insurance, principally those contained in the Affordable Care Act. Be sure to check your policy/certificate carefully to make sure you are aware of any exclusions or limitations regarding coverage of preexisting conditions or health benefits (such as hospitalization, emergency services, maternity care, preventive care, prescription drugs, and mental health and substance use disorder services). Your policy/certificate might also have lifetime and/or annual dollar limits on health benefits. If this coverage expires or you lose eligibility for this coverage, you might have to wait until an open enrollment period to get other health insurance coverage. This is not Minimum Essential coverage as defined in the Affordable Care Act and may not cover all Essential Health Benefits in your state. Some Short Term plans are available as association group insurance only to members of FACT, an independent association. Additional membership fees may be required.

2 Lump sum savings apply only to the medical plan premium. Savings do not apply to premiums for optional benefits added to the medical plan.

3 Check your state’s plan brochure for more information.

4 UnitedHealth Group Annual Form 10-K for year ended 12/31/18.

5 Some states excluded.

6 Underwritten by Golden Rule Insurance Company.


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