Whether through job loss or other coverage lapses like hitting the age limit on your parents' insurance policy, having health insurance coverage is essential. Medical emergencies can happen without warning, and you don’t always have control over them. Even if you feel great today, problems like unexpected illnesses, car accidents or even stepping awkwardly on the ground can create a need for immediate medical attention.
If you don’t have insurance, you could find yourself saddled with thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Even if you can’t secure affordable long-term coverage, you have several options in the form of short-term health insurance, which can provide affordable coverage for a temporary period of time — typically six to 11 months.
Short-term medical insurance is designed to fill in the gaps between permanent health insurance coverage, giving you time to find a better, long-term solution to your coverage needs. Plus, if you reach the end of your short-term coverage and haven’t found a viable solution, insurers may let you re-apply at least once to obtain another short-term plan or extend your current coverage. In times where an economic recession has restricted opportunities for many individuals, a short term medical plan may be the best option available. But not all short-term health insurance plans are created equal. Recognizing your need for coverage is just the first step in what can be a long, but important, process.
Health insurance plans are full of subtle details and policy terms that can have far greater implications than their fine print might suggest. Any buyer’s journey should begin by learning about a policy’s most important features, and how differences from one policy to the next might affect your overall coverage.
|Deductible Choices||$500, $1,000, $2,500, $5,000 and $7,500|
|Referrals||No referrals needed for specialists except physical therapy|
|No Primary Care Physician||No primary care physician required|
|Coinsurance||Choice of 80/20% or 50/50% coinsurance|
|Maximum||Overall maximum up to $2,000,000 lifetime|
|Hospital||Hospital inpatient prescription drug coverage|
|Outpatient||Lab/X-ray, emergency room, outpatient surgery & hospitalization coverage|
There are also features that may not seem important on the surface but can be very influential in the overall value of your policy. Prescription medication coverage, for example, can vary from one carrier to the next. Some plans may include it in their base coverage; while others may require you to purchase prescription insurance separately. You’ll also need to determine which procedures are covered by a given plan, and which ones aren’t.You should research all possible short-term insurance policy carriers to figure out which ones work with doctors and clinics in your area. If you can’t find an approved health care provider close to you, the policy may not have much value.
One of the most common considerations, especially for financially minded insurance shoppers, is the premium and its relation to a deductible. When it comes to insurance policies, lower deductibles — the amount of money you’ll have to pay before your insurance starts picking up your medical costs — mean higher initial premiums. By contrast, you can enjoy a lower premium by raising your deductible, although you may be faced with significantly higher out-of-pocket medical fees if you do have a medical incident.
Premium costs also are influenced by your physical condition, age and other lifestyle factors; as a result, it is important to take those aspects into consideration. Although your physical condition isn’t something you can change, underwriting guidelines used by various companies will quantify your risk differently leading to fluctuations in insurance costs. For this reason, it’s wise to get quotes from a variety of providers to figure out which is right for you.
Once you’ve broken the policies into their relevant parts and figured out those policies that suit your needs, go online to read customer reviews that can provide insight into what it’s like to work with those organizations. After all, you want an insurance provider that will relieve you of burdens, not increase them.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula to determine the perfect insurance plan. You will need to weigh the pros and cons of each policy against your individual needs. In some cases, such as determining whether to purchase a high deductible policy or a plan with higher premiums and lower deductibles, your choice will simply depend on the option that makes you feel most comfortable.
Whatever your final decision, rest assured that the most important part of the process is simply making sure you have health insurance coverage. The flexibility of short-term plans makes it easy for you to buy yourself some extra time while searching for long-term health insurance, whether you are trying to obtain it on your own or as an employee benefit. In the meantime, you can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that you have coverage while you consider your options.