Your employer may not offer you health insurance until you've been on the job for three months, or sometimes not at all. You may think to yourself, "Nothing's going to happen to me," but Murphy's Law has a sneaky way of seeking out gaps in insurance coverage. That's where short-term health insurance comes in.
You can get short-term coverage for up to six months (and possibly renewed for up to thirty-six months) while you're in between regular coverage.
Short-term insurance is intended to cover you in the event of an emergency, like that time you got your hand stuck in a can of Pringles.
Depending on a variety of factors (pregnancy, current coverage, etc.), you may not be eligible for coverage.
The premiums, or monthly payments, for short-term health insurance are usually cheaper than normal health insurance, but they're not nearly as cheap as your restaurant tips.
These plans don't offer coverage for teeth, eyeballs, pregnancy, or childbirth.
It's usually easier to get short-term coverage. The process is simple, the provider usually doesn't ask many questions about your health, and policies can sometimes be issued the next day.
Your deductible is often per incident or illness. Each incident will cost you money out of your pocket, so do yourself a favor and don't get sick very often.
Plans can be used with any doctor or hospital in the US, and you don't need to stay within a physician network.
Your next employer's health insurance may require that you've had coverage for a certain number of consecutive months to cover pre-existing conditions. Short-term health insurance helps you maintain that continuous coverage.
COBRA is an alternative, but more expensive option to short-term health insurance. If you're not offered insurance after you leave a job, you can purchase the same insurance that your previous employer offers for up to 18 months.
If you purchase COBRA, you'll pay your premium plus your employer's contribution (which can often be a big number). And for icing on the cake, you'll also pay a 5% administrative fee.
With short-term health insurance, you likely will have to pay on a per-incident basis, so here are some tips for staying out of the hospital:
- Do not buy bootleg merchandise like Stereo Explode, Stab Me Elmo, or the infamous Shower Toaster.
- Do cover yourself in bubble wrap.
- Do not adopt over-caffeinated gerbils or iguanas with prison records.
- Do stop, drop and roll.