Best Short-Term Health Insurance Providers

Everest's short-term health insurance with low copays and high maximum coverage

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Short-term health insurance (STM) plans are meant to be used when you have a temporary insurance coverage gap. They’re a good fit for those who have lost a job, are no longer eligible for a group insurance plan, find the cost of COBRA plans too expensive, or are not eligible for special enrollment in an Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant plan and must wait until the next open enrollment period.

The best short-term health insurance plans cover essential benefits at an affordable price. While many short-term health plans have restrictive maximum limits, high co-pays or deductibles, or no coverage for pre-existing conditions, the best plans offer comprehensive coverage at a reasonable cost.

Best Short-Term Health Insurance Providers of 2021

Best Overall : Everest


Everest

Everest

  • No. Policy Types: 1
  • Coverage Limit ($): $250,000 to $1.5 million
  • No. States Available: 23
Why We Chose It 

We chose Everest as best overall for its low deductibles, reasonable prices, and having the most dynamic doctor visit coverage, including wellness visits, emergency care, and mental disorder care.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Does not confine you to a network

  • Low copay and coinsurance options

  • Wellness benefit

  • Home health care, physical therapy, mental health, and substance abuse benefits

Cons
  • Prescriptions not covered (unless hospitalized)

  • Pre-existing conditions not covered

  • Only available in 23 states

Overview

Everest has been underwriting insurance since 1973. The company has a Moody’s insurance financial strength rating of A1 with various policy types on the market, including property, casualty, specialty, accident, and health insurance. They offer policies in 23 states across the country.

A few features of Everest STM include:

  • Deductibles of $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $7,500, or $10,000
  • Maximum coverage benefits from $250,000 to $1.5 million
  • Coinsurance options are 50/50, 70/30, 80/20, or 100/0 with copays of $30, $40, or $50
  • Wellness benefit to take care of preventive medicine

When you get approved, emergency coverage begins the next day, and there's a five-day waiting period for the routine wellness benefit. There is a 30-day waiting period for cancer benefits (cancer must be newly diagnosed 30 days after plan start date) and a six-month waiting period for certain other covered services, such as tonsillectomy, herniorrhaphy, and more. Although Everest does not offer coverage for prescriptions, it does provide discount cards.

Why We Chose It: We chose Everest as best overall for its low deductibles, reasonable prices, and having the most dynamic doctor visit coverage that includes wellness visits, emergency care, and mental disorder care.

Best for Longest Policy Options : UnitedHealthcare


UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare

  • No. Policy Types: Varies
  • Coverage Limit ($): $500,000 to $2 million
  • No. States Available: 24
Why We Chose It

UnitedHealthcare was our top choice for the longest policy options because it is the only provider with up-to-36-month coverage where allowable by state law.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Up to three-year policy available

  • $5,000 prescription coverage available

  • Preventive care wellness checks covered

  • Some pre-existing conditions covered after 12 months

Cons
  • Issue ages 19 to 65

  • Reduced out-of-network coverage that can vary

  • Required to join FACT in some plans

  • Only available in 24 states

Overview

UnitedHealthcare underwrites its policies through Golden Rule Insurance Company, a part of UnitedHealthcare since 2003. The company has been selling short-term health insurance for over 30 years, and policies are available in 24 states. UnitedHealthcare has a Moody’s insurer financial strength rating of A1.

You can request a quote on United's website to see what they would charge in your case. In some states, you must join the Federation of American Consumers and Travelers (FACT), and there will be an additional charge of $4 per month as a result. The FACT is a consumer organization that provides savings to members on 20 different benefits and coverages. The length of policies varies from one month to 12 months, with options to renew up to 36 months on the TriTerm Medical plan.

There are STM plans that cover 100% of medical costs after you meet the deductible (0% coinsurance) or options with 20%, 30%, or 40% coinsurance until you reach the annual maximums. You can also customize if your plan needs to include prescription medication.

Maximum benefits range from $500,000 to $2 million and are subject to exclusions, such as maternity care, accident-related events, emergency services, preventive care, hospitalization, pre-existing conditions, and prescription drugs. Coverage begins after you meet the deductible with options of $2,500, $5,000, $7,500, $10,000, or $15,000.

Waiting periods vary depending on the coverage in the plan. There is a six-month waiting period for preventive care benefits. Services related to eligible pre-existing conditions are only covered after 12 months.

Why We Chose It: UnitedHealthcare was our top choice for the longest policy options because it is the only provider with up-to-36-month coverage where allowable by state law.

Best Value : Pivot Health


Pivot Health

Pivot Health

  • No. Policy Types: Varies
  • Coverage Limit ($): $100,000 to $1 million
  • No. States Available: 24
Why We Chose It

Pivot provides a vast selection of affordable basic coverages and valuable options so that you can get the right policy for the right price, with the ability to add numerous discounts for things like prescription drugs and vision care.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • No network (all doctors accessible)

  • Access to 24/7 telemedicine

  • Prescription discount and deductable options

  • Home health care, physical therapy, substance abuse, and mental health discounts

Cons
  • Very low maximums on the cheapest plans

  • Requires emergency pre-certification within 48 hours

  • Does not cover pre-existing conditions

  • Only available in 24 states

Overview

Pivot Health has been around since 2016, managing over $7 billion in insurance premiums, and is affiliated with Communicating for America, a consumer advocacy group in favor of affordable healthcare for Americans. Pivot Health underwrites its short-term health plans through Companion Life Insurance Company, which has an AM Best financial stability rating of A+ (Superior). Pivot Health is available in 24 states.

Pivot Health has easy-to-use online tools that help you prioritize your insurance needs before it gives you quotes, and it offers you a selection of available features, as well, such as up to 70% off prescription drugs. You will also receive discounts of 15% to 30% off eye exams, frames, lenses, and contacts, making this company stand out for excellent STM value.

You can get a quote on the Pivot website to see what plans they offer in your area and what they charge.

You can choose deductibles between $1,000 and $10,000, and the maximum annual limits range from $100,000 to $1 million. All plans have coinsurance of 20% or 30%, and the maximum out-of-pocket cost for coinsurance is between $3,000 and $10,000.

Examples of some of their common exclusions include pre-existing conditions, immunizations, routine physical exams, and injuries resulting from extreme sports. The waiting periods are five days for illness, 30 days for cancer, and six months for certain specified items like a tonsillectomy.

Why We Chose It: Pivot provides a vast selection of affordable basic coverages and valuable options so that you can get the right policy for the right price, with the ability to add numerous discounts for things like prescription drugs and vision care.

Best for Customized Coverage : IHC Health Group


IHC Health Group

IHC Health Group

  • No. Policy Types: Varies
  • Coverage Limit ($): Up to $2 million
  • No. States Available: 35
Why We Chose It

The IHC Group offers low- to high-deductible options and the ability to add pre-existing condition coverage, making it the most customizable plan provider that we reviewed.

Pros and Cons
Pros
  • Some plans with routine check-ups included

  • X-rays and some other diagnostic exams included

  • Option of using your own doctor in- or out-of-network

  • Lifetime maximums up to $2 million

  • Pre-existing conditions covered on some plans up to $25,000


Cons
  • Sports-related injuries not covered

  • Highly customizable plans may exclude many coverages

  • High deductibles with some plans before you can access coverage

  • May be required to join Communicating for America (CA)


Overview

The IHC Group is an organization of insurance carriers operating short-term insurance plans in 35 states, including member insurers such as Standard Security Life, Madison National, and Independence American Insurance Company.

Your policy will be serviced by one of these companies depending on where you live, and some states require membership in Communicating for America, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to promote health and wellbeing through member benefits. AM Best gives an A- (Excellent) financial strength rating to the IHC Group and Standard Security Life.

AM Best has placed IHC's financial strength and long-term issuer credit ratings under review after the company agreed to sell a 70% stake in its pet division and other assets.

Request a quote online to see what they offer in your state and how much they'd charge you.

Exploring a range of policies from IHC Group carriers, deductible options generally included $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000. The coinsurance options we found were 20%, 30%, or 50%, with out-of-pocket maximums between $4,000 and $10,000. Plans vary by state, and we found outliers with lower deductibles and higher out-of-pocket maximums.

Supplemental coverage for dental or hospital/surgery insurance can be added to plans, and IHC members are also offered prescription discount plans and telemedicine consultation options.

Common exclusions include pre-existing conditions, including anything treated or consulted upon within five years before coverage became effective. Exclusions are different by state and issuing provider. For example, the Independence American Insurance Company policy we reviewed did not pay benefits for chiropractic care, mental health treatment, or periodic health exams, but did include an option to cover $25,000 for pre-existing conditions such as known illnesses or injuries in the Connect Plus Plan.

Why We Chose It: The IHC Group offers low- to high-deductible options and the ability to add pre-existing condition coverage, making it the most customizable plan provider that we reviewed. You'll also find other supplemental health options like telemedicine and prescription discount plans that improve the standard offerings and allow consumers to pick what is most important to them.

Final Verdict

There are a variety of options to choose from when it comes to short-term health insurance. While short-term medical insurance is much more limited than a typical health insurance policy, the best short-term health insurance policies serve as a temporary stop-gap between plans provided by an employer or purchased on the marketplace. Our top pick for short-term health insurance is Everest.

Everest offers flexible, affordable short-term health insurance plans. Rather than being confined to a network, patients are free to see the doctor they choose. Deductibles start at $1,000, and plans come with maximum coverage benefits of up to $1.5 million. Plans from Everest also come with home health care, physical therapy, mental health, and substance abuse coverage.

Compare the Best Short-Term Health Insurance Providers

Company Name Plans (#) Coverage Limit Waiting Period Deductible
Everest
Best Overall
1 $250,000 to $1.5 million 1 day to 6 months $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $7,500, or $10,000
Pivot Health
Best Value
Varies $100,000 to $1 million 5 days to 6 months $1,000, $2,000, $2,500, $3,000, $5,000, $7,500, or $10,000
IHC Health Group
Best for Customized Coverage
Varies Up to $2 million Varies $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000
UnitedHealthcare
Best for Longest Policy Options
Varies $500,000 to $2 million 6 to 12 months $2,500, $5,000, $7,500, $10,000, or $15,000

Do You Need Short-Term Health Insurance?

If you lose other health insurance coverage or are temporarily between jobs, you may need to purchase short-term health insurance. However, there are other options available. If you recently lost a job, you may be eligible for COBRA insurance. You also may be able to sign up for a new policy through the health insurance marketplace if you’ve experienced a qualifying event such as loss of healthcare coverage, change in residence, or other life changes such as marriage, divorce, or having a baby.

How Do You Compare Short-Term Health Insurance Providers?

There are a few factors you should keep in mind when shopping for short-term health insurance:

  • Coverage limits: Most short-term plans have coverage limits ranging from a few hundred thousand to a few million dollars.
  • Deductibles: The higher your deductible, the more you’ll have to pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in. Most short-term health insurance plans have deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.
  • Availability: Short-term health insurance is available in only 39 states, and providers may not operate in all of those states.
  • Prescription coverage: Not all short-term health insurance policies cover prescriptions, so be sure to look for a plan with coverage if you take any regular medications.

How Do You Choose the Best Short-Term Health Insurance Provider for You?

Once you’ve settled on a short-term health insurance provider, the next step is to apply for a health insurance quote. If you decide to select the policy after receiving a quote, you’ll need to provide information about yourself, including your name, address, and Social Security number. Most short-term insurance providers allow customers to pay for policies online. You typically can manage your policy and make any necessary changes online.

After applying for a short-term policy, you’ll receive a health insurance card in the mail. Depending on your policy details, some services may be covered as soon as the next day after applying, while others may not be covered for several months. Keep in mind that short-term health insurance is only meant to be a temporary stop-gap; there are cheaper plans available on the marketplace during open enrollment.

Who Is Eligible for Short-Term Health Insurance?

Short-term health insurance provides limited coverage as a temporary bridge while you wait to qualify for an ACA-compliant plan. It can be used when you do not yet qualify for a group insurance plan or are waiting for the next open enrollment. Some people choose short-term health insurance as temporary coverage in case of an emergency if they suddenly are without coverage for various reasons. Examples might be:

  • Leaving a job that had a health insurance plan and not qualifying for COBRA plans
  • Retiring early and looking for temporary insurance until qualifying for Medicare
  • No longer qualifying for a group plan due to divorce
  • Moving to a new state where an existing plan cannot follow and waiting until a new plan starts
  • Students or young adults turning 26 who no longer qualify for their parents' insurance
  • People who want to have a plan with no network and find ACA plans too expensive

Anyone can apply for short-term health insurance. However, because it is not ACA compliant, it uses medical underwriting and may refuse to insure you (or offer only limited coverage). Depending on which state you are in, coverage may be available only for a limited time up to a maximum of three years.

How Can You Buy Short-Term Health Insurance?

Short-term health insurance is available through quotes you can obtain by phone or directly on an insurance company's website. Online marketplaces and insurance agencies also have websites that provide quotes with various insurers (in some cases hundreds), making it easy to find options. Some examples include eHealth and Agile.

Short-term coverage always has been known as a lower-cost health insurance option. Still, with many tax credits available for lower-income individuals, it is important to consider all your options. Check if you qualify for a special enrollment period, and be sure and check what you can get in the ACA marketplace first. Even some zero-premium Bronze ACA plans are available for low-income enrollees in parts of the country.

How Much Does Short-Term Health Insurance Cost?

The average cost of short-term health insurance for a single person is $124 a month compared to $456 for an unsubsidized ACA-compliant plan. We found plans with coverage more suited to the concept of catastrophic plans (due to their high deductibles) for as low as $60 a month. It can be confusing due to the lack of consistency in plan coverages, but it is recommended to shop and compare the options line by line.

What Does Short-Term Health Insurance Cover?

Short-term medical insurance is meant to cover hospital room and board, emergency health situations, inpatient doctor visits, and other unexpected medical needs not part of pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, confusion about how the coverage works and existing exclusions create a lot of claim denials. These are emergency plans with limitations for preventive care and high deductibles.

Short-term health providers will tailor different types of packages in varying price ranges. You can find some policies that offer more coverage than others. You do not need to settle for a bare minimum plan, so be sure and ask about preventive care add-ons or other coverage to get the best quotes. It is worth comparing a few options before you make a decision.

What Does Short-Term Health Insurance Exclude?

Short-term health plans have many exclusions, including no coverage for pre-existing conditions. Short-term health plans are not subject to the ACA provisions and are not ACA-compliant. Short-term health plans leave you with significant risks of incurring medical debt due to high deductibles, extensive exclusions, and, because of this, potential denials of coverage.

Exclusions that demonstrate the limitations found in many short-term health plans include these statistics:

  • 43% do not cover mental health services
  • 62% do not cover substance abuse
  • 71% do not cover outpatient prescription drugs
  • No short-term health plans cover maternity care

Short-term health plans do not cover wellness visits, although we found a few in our reviews that do offer it for a cost.

How Does Short-Term Health Insurance Compare to COBRA?

COBRA plans allow you to maintain the coverage you had through your employer or previous group benefits, including all the ACA-compliant essential benefits, and allow you to maintain coverage for things like pregnancy or mental health if your former plan covered it. In contrast, short-term medical plans provide you with much less coverage and no essential benefits.

The average cost of a COBRA plan depends greatly on what kind of plan your employer or group had in the first place. In some cases, the employer may continue to pay into the plan for you, which will give you a reduced cost. In others, you may end up having to pay into the plan yourself fully. Don’t forget to consider that all amounts you already paid toward your deductible will count toward the COBRA continuation of benefits, and this can save you a lot of money, especially if you plan to be on it for only a short while.

How We Chose the Health Insurance Companies

We looked at short-term health insurance plans through insurance companies and independent health insurance marketplaces to discover what options exist. We investigated the waiting periods, qualifications, coverage types, common exclusions, maximum limits, deductibles, and copays across the different plans. Our goal was to highlight some of the best short-term health insurance options offered through reputable insurance companies to help you compare and decide if short-term health insurance is a good idea for you.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
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  2. Moody's. "Moody’s Affirms UnitedHealth Group’s Ratings After Acquisition Announcement; Outlook Stable." Accessed Sept. 3, 2021.

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  5. Pivot. “Short-Term Health Insurance.” Accessed Sept 3, 2021.

  6. AM Best. "AM Best Places Credit Ratings of Independence Holding Company and Its Subsidiaries Under Review With Developing Implications." Accessed Sept. 3, 2021.

  7. Independence American Insurance Company. “Connect: Short Term Medical.” Page 4. Accessed Sept.3, 2021.

  8. Kaiser Family Foundation. "Analysis: Most Short-Term Health Plans Don’t Cover Drug Treatment or Prescription Drugs, and None Cover Maternity Care." Accessed Nov. 22, 2021.