We chose UnitedHealthcare for the best overall short-term health insurance based on features like multiple plan types, renewal options and out-of-network care. These factors make UnitedHealthcare stand out among other short-term insurance providers.
Short-term health policies are typically one year or less in duration. Customers often use short-term coverage as a bridge between other full-benefit health policies.
Short-term policies differ from standard health insurance in three key ways: duration, whether they can be renewed and the coverage they provide.
Best short-term health insurance companies
The best short-term health insurance available is through UnitedHealthcare (UHC). The company provides coverage not offered by many short-term plans, such as preventive care, which promotes good health by catching issues early, and a dental add-on benefit. With UnitedHealthcare, you can choose from several policies with varying deductibles and term lengths.
UnitedHealthcare: Best overall plan
- AM Best financial strength rating: A+
- NAIC complaint index: 1.13
- Unique value: UHC provides multiple plan options, flexible term lengths and a large health network.
UnitedHealthcare short-term health insurance is the best option if you are looking for multiple plan choices that offer benefits not always found in short-term plans, such as preventive care and optional dental coverage where available. While some UHC plans restrict your care to network health care providers, UHC has a sizable network of more than 1.4 million medical providers and 6,500 hospitals.
Short-term policies offered by UHC are underwritten through a subsidiary, Golden Rule Insurance Co. Both companies have strong financial strength ratings, meaning they have a high ability to pay out policy claims.
Everest: Best for broad benefit options
- AM Best financial strength rating: A+
- NAIC complaint index: 0.79
- Unique value: Everest offers additional benefits not provided by typical short-term health insurance policies.
Everest National Insurance is the best option if you want coverage for wellness visits, emergency care and mental health care — unique services not typically covered by short-term health insurance.
Everest offers a variety of plans with deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Other companies start with a minimum deductible of $2,500. The lower deductible means you pay less out of pocket and meet your deductible more quickly, allowing plan benefits to kick in sooner. As with all short-term medical plans, monthly rates are based on age, health and the cost-sharing options you choose.
Along with coverage for adults, Everest has plans with wide-ranging coverage for children aged 2 to 25 years. It also offers child-only plans, which aren't always available from other insurers: Many short-term plans provide coverage for children only if they share your policy with you. This option can be helpful if you need to insure your child during a temporary break in health coverage.
Everest National Insurance began underwriting policies in 1973 and still has a strong financial position given its AM Best rating of A+.
IHC: Best customizable insurance
- AM Best financial strength rating: Not rated
- NAIC complaint index: Depends on state
- Unique value: The IHC Group offers the most customizable short-term medical plans.
IHC provides the flexibility to customize your short-term plan by adding options such as preexisting condition coverage, telemedicine and prescription discounts.
Short-term plans from Independence Holding Co. (IHC) are offered in 35 states through the company's subsidiary, Health eDeals. The company handling your policy will vary based on where you live, and some states require membership in a nonprofit organization called Communicating for America.
Most IHC plans allow policyholders to visit both in-network and out-of-network providers.
Policies through IHC provide some coverage for X-rays and diagnostic testing, which aren't commonly included in short-term plans.
Pivot: Best for affordability and value
- AM Best financial strength rating: A+
- NAIC complaint index: 3.73
- Unique value: Pivot Health has a large selection of affordable basic coverage options to help you find a policy that fits your health and budget needs, with no network requirements.
Pivot Health offers four levels of coverage to meet your short-term insurance needs and budget. Pivot deductibles are between $1,000 and $10,000, a lower range than many short-term plans. Some Pivot plans charge a flat copay of $30 to $60 for medical visits, rather than coinsurance. Copays are typically cheaper than coinsurance and provide the comfort of knowing exactly what you'll pay for each visit.
Pivot Health has some bonuses that are not usually available for short-term health insurance. This includes access to a telemedicine program that is open 24/7 and allows you to speak to a medical professional on demand. Other perks include up to 70% off prescription drugs and potential discounts up to 30% on eye exams, glasses and contact lenses.
Pivot Health offers short-term medical plans in 35 states. Policy options include child-only plans, so you can buy temporary coverage just for your child. There is no network requirement attached to many Pivot plans, meaning you can receive care from almost any doctor.
Potential Pivot policyholders should be wary of the company's customer service reputation. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), it receives considerably more complaints than average.
Best short-term health insurance plans — a quick guide
Why we chose it
|UnitedHealthcare||Overall features||Variety of term lengths and policy options|
|Everest||Unique benefits||Pays for wellness and other care not typically covered by short-term plans|
|IHC||Customization||Add-ons such as preexisting condition coverage|
|Pivot||Best value||Lower deductibles and multiple coverage levels|
What is short-term health insurance?
Short-term health insurance or short-term medical (STM) policies cover basic procedures and expenses such as primary care checkups. Unlike an individual health insurance plan, a temporary health plan may deny coverage based on a preexisting condition or health standards set by the insurer, meaning the plans are not issued on a guaranteed basis.
Short-term plans are sometimes called instant health insurance, as coverage typically begins as soon as your application is approved.
During the application process, you must answer some questions about your health history, and you may need to undergo a medical exam as well.
Pros and cons of short-term medical insurance
Short-term medical insurance can be a good option when you need to fill a gap while waiting for other coverage, such as Medicare, to begin. Short-term insurance is not meant to be your sole insurance over the long term or to cover you for extended periods.
When comparing temporary plans, carefully review the benefits and plan details to ensure you are getting the coverage you need.
Short-term health insurance laws by state
Federal rules set the maximum length of short-term health insurance policies to 364 days and the maximum number of renewals to three. This means that the maximum amount of time that you would be able to have a short-term health insurance policy is just short of three years.
State laws where short-term medical insurance is offered
Laws in states where short-term medical insurance is not currently offered
Short-term plans may be sold in the states below; however, at this time, no insurers are offering coverage. If sold, the plans would have the following requirements:
States where short-term health insurance is not sold
Although short-term policies are available in many states, there are some areas where you will not be able to purchase this type of coverage. In the following states, legislation makes the sale of short-term health insurance illegal:
Should I purchase short-term health insurance?
Your best use of a short-term health insurance plan is to fill a gap in coverage until you can find a longer-term health insurance option. Therefore, it is a temporary solution that could be an excellent option to consider in the following scenarios:
- Waiting period for employer health insurance
- Losing a job
- Missing open enrollment
- Not qualifying for a special enrollment period (SEP)
- Not qualifying for COBRA insurance
- Students who may be in college and need coverage during the school year
- Aging out of a parent's plan
- Needing coverage before Medicare begins
Frequently asked questions
When should I consider short-term health insurance?
You should consider short-term insurance plans if you are without coverage for a certain period. For example, you may need a short-term policy if you leave a job and don't qualify for COBRA insurance coverage.
How can I purchase short-term health insurance?
You can purchase a short-term medical policy through private health insurance companies at any time of year. We recommend first looking at plans offered by UnitedHealthcare.
How much does short-term health insurance cost?
The cost of short-term health insurance can vary widely but usually averages about $124 per month based on available plan data. Short-term plans with higher deductibles can have lower premiums. The cost will depend on your state of residence and your health at the time of application. Furthermore, deductibles for short-term plans are often extremely high, making these plans costly if you have to pay for services out of pocket.
Our ratings of the best short-term health insurance companies are based upon three factors: cost, financial strength of the company and policy flexibility.
- We analyzed cost by viewing policies offered by each insurer and comparing the monthly premiums to determine which was the cheapest. We found the cheapest was not necessarily the best short-term insurer in many scenarios.
- We used financial strength and NAIC complaint index data and focused on companies' ability to pay claims and their history of interactions with policyholders.
- We viewed policy flexibility as an important factor, especially for short-term plans, since these policies are mostly used for bridges in coverage.