by Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT
This article was originally published in 1992 and updated several times, most recently following passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Short term medical insurance (STM) has been the most popular type of health insurance purchased online since the early development of online enrollment systems. These policies provide strong coverage at a low cost through a wide range of reputable insurance companies. But there are a few important things every potential policy holder should know before enrolling in short term medical insurance:
1. Know the reason for the low price. STM is typically the least expensive type of major medical insurance, often priced at 1/2 the monthly cost of renewable coverage, specifically because it does not cover the cost of treating pre-existing medical conditions. In addition, this coverage is exempted from some other provisions of state and federal health insurance law that would otherwise increase the cost or limit availability of this type of insurance.
2. Typical Usage. This coverage is most commonly used by adults who are changing jobs, recent college graduates and self-employed individuals. Most people are eligible for this coverage but a pregnancy or any catastrophic diseases in your family will disqualify you from applying for this type of coverage. Policies typically last from one month to 12 months.
3. Nationwide coverage; network providers not required. The coverage is equally effective throughout the entire United States and may be used with any doctor or hospital. STM does not require the use of PPO network providers. The simplicity of the coverage is one of the most attractive features.
4. Distinguish coverage for domestic vs. international travel. STM policies provide coverage for treatment inside of the United States or outside out the U.S. for international travellers. But the policies do not provide equal coverage for both types. International short term medical plans are issued by different companies than those that issue domestic policies.
5. Benefit from advantages of online enrollment. Applying for STM is fast and easy online and the Internet adds several additional benefits for policyholders. Processing of applications and issuance of policies is done in real time. Policies and ID cards can be downloaded immediately. Additionally, the policy and proof of coverage can be downloaded and sent to anyone who may need proof of coverage.
6. How to extend coverage. Because of the attractive features for healthy applicants, this insurance is sometimes desired for more than 12 months. STM can be used to cover you for longer periods of time only if you enroll for sequential policies, changing coverage every 6 to 12 months, depending on specific state rules. You must reapply for a new policy after an older policy ends. It is necessary to change insurance companies after 12 months of coverage. But you can continue to do this without any time limitations.
7. Dealing with restrictive state laws. STM is not issued in certain states including Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York or Vermont. Residents of these states may purchase coverage while travelling away from home or staying at a temporary residence away from their home state. For example, some may qualify for STM while staying at school, camp, a vacation home, or an out-of-state convention. In this cases a policy issued in another state provides national coverage even after returning home to a state that does not originally issue STM coverage.
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Opinions expressed are the solely those of the author and do not represent the position of any other person, company or entity mentioned in the article. Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues or a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. Tony Novak operates as an independent adviser under the trademarks "Freedom Benefits", "OnlineAdviser" and "OnlineNavigator" but is not a representative, agent, broker, producer or navigator for any securities broker dealer firm, federal or state health insurance marketplace or qualified health plan carrier. He has no financial position in any stocks mentioned. Novak does work as an accountant, agent, adviser, writer, consultant, marketer, reviewer, endorser, producer, lead generator or referrer to other companies including the companies listed in the articles on this web site.