For the In-between Times: Short-term Health Insurance

When people think of health insurance, they think of traditional health insurance, with office visits, co-payments, and prescription drug coverage. However, such health insurance is not always available. Perhaps you are transitioning from one job to another; or maybe you are employed part-time or with a temporary agency that does not offer full health coverage; or you might be attending or just graduating from school. In these situations, traditional health insurance is sometimes not available. If you are unable to afford traditional health insurance but would like some coverage in the case of an accident or emergency, short-term health insurance is your best bet.

Short-term health insurance fills the gap in health insurance coverage that may come about for a number of different reasons, including those listed above. The idea of short-term health insurance is built into the name - it is a short-term solution offering short-term coverage, with the expectation that at some point, you will begin or resume traditional health insurance coverage. It is designed for those who would like some coverage in case of accident or injury and covers only emergency or serious medical expenses, such as x-rays, ambulance fees, intensive care, and a certain amount of hospital care. Though policies vary, these are often standard in short-term health insurance coverage. However, short-term health insurance does not cover regular physician visits, nor do they cover pre-existing conditions. If you are looking for this sort of coverage, you should consider obtaining a traditional health insurance policy or looking into other options.

Short-term health insurance costs vary greatly; you will have a monthly premium, ranging anywhere from $25 to $100, depending upon the plan's coverage and deductible, which often begins at $250 and can increase to $5,000. Most policies these days also offer a reasonable pay-out amount (often one or two million dollars). Policies allow you to choose coverage for specific lengths of time, from 30 days to 90 days or six months, but almost no short-term policies extend past one year.

How do you find short-term health insurance? It is not as difficult as it may seem. A simple Internet search will yield a number of companies that offer short-term health insurance coverage. Searching online will also give you the opportunity to compare different companies and different plans. Just be sure to research each of the policies carefully to understand your maximum pay-out as well as deductibles, coverage, and other terms of the agreement.

Health Insurance for Every Need: Understanding the Kinds Available

In the United States, there are about five different types of health insurance available: traditional health insurance; preferred provider organizations or PPOs; point-of-service plans or POS; health management organizations or HMOs; and most recently, health savings accounts or HSAs. With so many types of health insurance, it may be confusing trying to figure out which one best fits your needs, so thoroughly research each and speak with a professional if you need clarification. 

Traditional health insurance is the one that most people think of when they think of health insurance. You pay the insurance company a premium every month, and if you have an accident or need for health coverage, you have a deductible amount you must pay and then the insurance company picks up the rest of the bill. You often have an inexpensive office and/or prescription co-pay with traditional health insurance.

With people living longer, health insurance companies began to look for more ways to reduce their costs, developing different health plans such as PPOs. PPOs are plans which will cover nearly all of your medical expenses as long as you stay within a preferred network of physicians or hospitals. This network creates a "preferred provider" list that you can choose from. Treatment outside this network of providers is covered but only at a reduced rate, meaning you end up paying more to see a physician outside the network. By limiting the physicians and hospitals covered in their network, the insurance company can control, to an extent, their costs and lower your premiums. POS plans work like PPOs, but require you to have a primary care physician through whom you can receive referrals for specialists. If you need to see a neurologist or a dermatologist, you must first visit your primary care physician for an initial diagnosis in order to receive a referral to a specialist for a more thorough diagnosis. POS plans also have a preferred provider network, and if you choose to visit a specialist or physician outside that network, your coverage will be limited.

HMOs combine a stricter version of PPOs and POS plans. HMOs have a defined list of physicians, often much smaller than PPO networks, which you may see. You will not be covered at all if you see a physician outside your HMO network. Furthermore, you must also get a referral from your primary care HMO physician to see any specialist. However, these restrictions mean that you pay an extra low or no monthly premium.

HSAs were recently signed into law by President Bush. You can deposit money into a special non-taxed, interest-gaining savings account that must be used for medical expenses. The ideal situation for an HSA is to combine the account with a low-cost, high-deductible insurance plan. The savings account is designed to allow you to cover the high deductible if you find the need to cover expensive medical costs while the insurance company will pick up the rest of the bill. 

Again, it is important to carefully consider each option before choosing a single health insurance plan. Your health is important-make sure it is protected in the best way possible. 

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