Short-term health insurance is a health insurance policy that is typically one year or less in the length of coverage. For this reason, short-term health insurance is usually used in a temporary situation when a family or individual is bridging between other full-benefit health insurance policies like individual or group. The best short-term health insurance available is through UnitedHealthcare, which offers a variety of policies with varying deductibles, lengths and other flexibilities.
Why trust our rankings?
Our ratings of the best short-term health insurance companies are based upon three factors: cost, financial strength of the company and policy flexibility.
- Cost was analyzed by viewing the many policies offered by each insurer and comparing the monthly premiums to determine which was the cheapest. Furthermore, the cheapest was not necessarily the best short-term insurer in many scenarios.
- Financial strength and NAIC complaint index was utilized, as we were primarily interested in companies that had the financial backing and ability to pay out health claims to their policyholders. Additionally, NAIC scores evaluate the company's interactions with policyholders which is crucial when filing claims.
- Policy flexibility was the final factor analyzed and is important especially for short-term plans since these policies are mostly used for bridges in coverage.
Best short-term health insurance companies
Best overall short-term health insurance
- AM Best financial strength rating: A
- NAIC complaint index: 0.00
- Unique value: UHC offers one of the only short-term health plans that has coverage longer than 12 months.
UnitedHealthcare (UHC) short-term health insurance policies are the best option in the market if you are looking for coverage longer than one year. Policies are underwritten through Golden Rule Insurance Co., a subsidiary of UHC, and both companies have strong financial strength ratings, meaning they should have the ability to pay out claims issued by their policyholders.
We recommend UHC as the best option if you are looking for a variety of policy options, deductibles and lengths that are backed by a financially strong company.
Best cheap short-term health insurance
- AM Best financial strength rating: A+
- NAIC complaint index: 0.34
- Unique value: Everest offers some of the cheapest short-term health insurance policies on the market.
Everest National Insurance offers short-term medical plans and has a strong financial position given its AM Best rating of A+. The company, which began underwriting policies in 1973, is the best option if you are looking for some of the cheapest policies on the market. Furthermore, there are a variety of deductibles available including: $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $7,500 and $10,000.
Everest is another good option for short-term health plans, as it offers flexibility in how you pay premiums. Options include paying monthly, paying yearly or even prepaying for the coverage period. However, like other short-term medical insurance, Everest policies do not cover preexisting conditions and prescription drug coverage since the plans do not qualify as minimum essential coverage.
Best widely available short-term health insurance
- AM Best financial strength rating: A-
- NAIC complaint index: Depends on state
- Unique value: IHC Health Group offers short-term medical plans through HealtheDeals in 35 states, the most among the companies we analyzed.
Short-term plans from the Independence Holding Co. (IHC) were identified as available in the highest number of states in the U.S. IHC policies are offered in 35 states. However, there are some differences in plan availability based on individual state laws.
IHC Health Group short-term plans are offered through their public facing subsidiary HealtheDeals. Most plans allow policyholders to visit both in-network and out-of-network providers. This added flexibility may be useful for someone that needs to visit a specialist.
Finally, policies through IHC also provide some diagnostic care such as X-rays and diagnostic tests, which aren't commonly included in short-term plans.
Best low deductible short-term health insurance
- AM Best financial strength rating: A+
- NAIC complaint index: 3.63
- Unique value: Pivot Health has one of the lowest deductibles available starting at $1,000 for its short-term medical plans and has no network requirements.
Pivot Health is one of the newest short-term providers included in our analysis — the company began offering plans in 2016. But the company does have some great benefits to consider if you are looking for short-term health insurance.
Firstly, Pivot has no network requirements attached to its plans. This means that you can access almost any doctor and specifically choose where you want to receive your care. However, you will have higher coinsurance and copayments with Pivot due to this feature.
Secondly, Pivot Health has some added 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.
Potential policyholders should be wary of their NAIC complaint index. Even though they have only been in business for a short period of time, a complaint ratio of 3.63 is well above average for the industry.
What is short-term health insurance?
Short-term health insurance or short-term medical (STM) policies are plans that provide coverage for basic procedures and expenses such as primary care checkups.
During the application process, you will be required to answer some questions about your health history. You may need to undergo a medical exam as well. Therefore, unlike an individual health insurance plan, a temporary health plan is not issued on a guaranteed basis, meaning you could be denied coverage if you have a preexisting condition or do not meet the health standards set by the insurer.
Pros and cons
The main advantage of a short-term policy is that you can get quick coverage at any point. Short-term plans do not need to be purchased during the annual open enrollment period, which only happens once per year, or a special enrollment period (SEP), which is only available if you qualify. This makes them incredibly flexible to the needs of the policyholder and best for short coverage lengths.
These plans usually provide less coverage when compared to full-benefit plans such as individual or employer health insurance but can cost upward of $300 less per month. Short-term health insurance policies are not required to cover the 10 essential health benefits that are guaranteed by individual health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
When comparing temporary plans you should carefully review the benefits and plan details to make sure you are getting the coverage that 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 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 three years.
However, individual states have set their own regulations regarding the length of short-term health insurance policies. Below are the states that have set such laws:
Initial plan duration
|Delaware||Three months||No||Three months|
|Illinois||Six months||No||Six months|
|Kansas||365 days||One||24 months|
|Louisiana||12 months||Yes||36 months|
|Maryland||Three months||No||Three months|
|Michigan||185 days||No||185 days|
|Minnesota||185 days||No||365 days|
|Missouri||Six months||Yes||36 months|
|Nevada||185 days||No||185 days|
|New Hampshire||Six months||No||18 months|
|North Dakota||185 days||One||12 months|
|Ohio||364 days||No||52 weeks|
How can I purchase short-term health insurance?
Short-term health insurance plans are available for purchase through most health insurance companies like UnitedHealthcare and National General. Although short-term policies are available in most states, there are some areas where you will not be able to purchase this type of coverage.
Here are the states that currently have legislation that makes the sale of short-term health insurance illegal:
Should I purchase short-term health insurance?
Short-term health insurance should be used 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 a good option to consider in the following scenarios:
- Waiting period for employer health insurance
- Losing a job
- Missed open enrollment
- Don't qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP)
- Don't qualify for COBRA insurance
- Students who may be in college and need coverage during the school year
- Aging out of a parent's plan
- Need coverage before Medicare begins
Frequently asked questions
When should I consider short-term health insurance?
Short-term health insurance provides temporary coverage that can be used as a bridge while you wait for a full coverage policy. You should consider short-term coverage in the case of an emergency if you are without coverage for a certain period. For example, if you leave a job and don't qualify for COBRA insurance coverage, you might consider short-term coverage. Anyone can purchase short-term health insurance. However, most of the time you will be required to undergo a medical exam.
How can I purchase short-term health insurance?
Short-term policies can be purchased through private health insurance companies. We recommend first looking at policies offered by UnitedHealthcare. Additionally, short-term health plans can be bought at any time throughout the year.
How much does short-term health insurance cost?
The cost of short-term health insurance can vary widely but usually averages between $80 and $140 per month. 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, which can make these plans costly if you have to pay for services out of pocket.