The Best Short-Term Health Insurance Companies in 2022

Considering short-term health insurance? These plans are not created equal. We analyzed more than 3,000 data points to help you find the best option. Best overall company for short-term health insurance: UnitedHealthcare. Runner-up: National General Accident & Health

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Last Updated: 5/27/2022
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UnitedHealthcare earned MoneyGeek’s top ranking among short-term health insurance plans for having the most plans, more coverage for the cost, lower deductibles, low coinsurance and low out-of-pocket limits. Most of UnitedHealthcare's short-term plans cover prescription drugs.

National General Accident & Health was MoneyGeek’s runner-up because of its relatively good coverage-to-cost ratios and low application fees. It offers a lot of options with a range of out-of-pocket cost limits, increasing the chances you might find a plan that works for you.

Other companies do well on specific dimensions, offering decent options depending on the features that matter most to you.

What Is Short-Term Health Insurance?

Short-term health insurance is designed to cover temporary gaps in coverage, typically for one year or less though it can last longer. It does not provide comprehensive coverage or long-term financial protection for many health needs. Short-term plans don’t have to include essential health benefits or protections for people with preexisting conditions required in Affordable Care Act-compliant plans.

If you think short-term plans are a good way to save money on health insurance, think again. You might be able to get better coverage for less with expanded subsidies on Healthcare.gov or your state’s health insurance marketplace.

If you need temporary coverage, it’s smart to know what you’re getting when you buy a short-term plan.

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Ensure you are getting the best rate for your insurance. Compare quotes from the top insurance companies.

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Best Companies for Short-Term Health Insurance

MoneyGeek’s picks for the best short-term health insurance plans are UnitedHealthcare and National General Accident & Health. Monthly premiums for UnitedHealthcare’s short-term plans range from $21.18 per month to $659.96. That range for National General Accident & Health is higher, ranging from $35.57 to $872.90.

Best Overall: UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare

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Offers the most short-term plan options

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Most plans offer generic drug coverage

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Out-of-network coverage

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Highest application fee

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Highest maximum out-of-pocket limit

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Offers the most expensive plan

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

UnitedHealthcare offers a wide range of short-term plan options, making it more likely you’ll find one that works for you. Plans with low out-of-pocket limits, low or no coinsurance and low deductibles are available. Deductibles range from $1,000 to $15,000. UnitedHealthcare offers a wide range of options to suit different needs, form the cheapest and the most expensive.

Runner-Up: National General Accident & Health

National General Health Accident & Health

pros

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Highest available coverage limit

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Available in most states

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Low out-of-pocket maximums

cons

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Longest general waiting period

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Some plans have high out-of-pocket limits and deductibles

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Cheaper plans generally not worth the cost

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

National General Accident & Health offers low coinsurance, low application fees, out-of-network coverage and several plans with generic prescription drug coverage. But many of the company’s cheaper options are not worth the money. On the other hand, its higher-end plans are among the best value for the cost. There’s only one short-term plan type, longer wait times and some plans with higher out-of-pocket costs.

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MONEYGEEK EXPERT TIP

Health insurance comes in many different flavors — or plan types. Each has benefits and drawbacks. It’s important to understand the options to figure out what best fits your needs.

  • HMO health plans: Health Maintenance Organization plans (HMOs) offer comprehensive coverage, but you have to get care from a set network of health care providers. You’ll have to pick a primary care provider (PCP) who is like a gatekeeper for any other care that you need. If you need to go to a doctor or hospital outside that network, you’ll need a referral, and you may have to pay more. You may save money in exchange for these restrictions.

  • PPO health plans: Preferred Provider Organization plans (PPOs) are generally more flexible than HMOs, allowing you to see any health care provider in the health plan network without a referral, which means you don’t need permission to see a specialist, for example. You may pay more for this flexibility.

  • EPO health plans: Exclusive Provider Organization plans (EPOs) require you to see specific providers. There are generally no out-of-network benefits. You could save significantly on monthly premiums by agreeing to see only a more limited set of providers.

  • Indemnity health plans: Indemnity plans, sometimes called “fee-for-service” plans, offer you the most freedom to see almost any doctor or hospital without a referral. You don’t have to go through a PCP. Under these plans, you get to decide where to get care. These plans can be costly because there are so few restrictions, and providers do not necessarily agree to accept discounted rates from the insurer.

  • Network health plans: Network health plans are like PPO plans in that they create a network of health care providers that you can see. These providers agree to provide services to health plan members at discounted negotiated rates.

Most Customizable Short-Term Health Insurance Plans

Independence American Insurance Company offers 30 different plans and six term length options, earning it the top spot for Most Customizable. Its lowest deductible is $2,500 and its highest is $10,000. Monthly premiums range from $67.12 to $1,029.34.

Most Customizable: Independence American Insurance Company

American Independent Ins Co

pros

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Most plan options

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Various term lengths to choose from

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No waiting period or application fees

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Not all plans offer out-of-network coverage

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Though many plan options, only one plan type

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Maximum out-of-pocket spending can be high

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

Independence American Insurance Company offers many term lengths. However, the shortest is six months, which may be longer than you need. With no waiting periods, no application fees and the cheapest plans for up to $2 million in coverage, these plans are more easily accessible than others. About half the plans offer generic prescription drug coverage.

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It’s impossible to predict all your future health needs, so choosing the best health insurance company for you can be hard. But making an educated guess about how much health coverage you’re likely to need and for how long can help. For example, if you know you’re starting a new job in a few months, short-term health insurance can give you peace of mind in that gap. But if you’re on a job search and unsure when it will end, choosing the wrong short-term plan could leave you exposed if that search lasts longer than you expect.

Best Short-Term Health Insurance Company for At-Risk Individuals

National General Accident & Health has some of the better options for “at-risk” people — those who are likely to use their health insurance due to complex health issues — because they offer some of the highest coverage limits. Monthly premiums range from $35.57 to $872.90. But plan deductibles range from $2,500 to a whopping $25,000.

Best for At-Risk Individuals: National General Accident & Health

National General Health Accident & Health

pros

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Low out-of-pocket spending limits in some plans

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Highest available coverage limit

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Low coinsurance

cons

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High out-of-pocket spending limits and deductibles on some plans

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Longest general waiting period

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Cheapest plans not worth it

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

With low out-of-pocket spending limits, low coinsurance and high levels of coverage, National General Accident & Health offers some great options, especially for people with complex health needs. But beware of astronomical (up to $25,000) deductibles, which could mean you’re paying a ton out of pocket if you need services.

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If you’re likely to need more health care — if you have a chronic condition or a complex health history, for example, it’s important not to go without health coverage. It could cost you a bundle if you need services while you’re uninsured. Short-term health insurance can ensure you have at least some coverage but it’s smart to check your options. You may get better coverage for less money (or not that much more) with subsidies on Healthcare.gov and the state health insurance marketplaces.

Best Short-Term Health Provider for Students & the Unemployed

Everest Reinsurance Company earned MoneyGeek’s pick for best short-term health insurance company for students and people who are in between jobs because it generally has low premiums and out-of-pocket spending limits, but still offers decent coverage. Monthly premiums range from $76.15 to $641.03, with deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Best for Students or the Unemployed: Everest Reinsurance Company

Everest

pros

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Lowest out-of-pocket spending limits

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Decent coverage for the cost

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Short general waiting period

cons

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Available in the fewest number of states

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Long waiting period for people with cancer

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No generic prescription drug coverage

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

With plans ranging from three months to a year in length, Everest Reinsurance company offers good options for students or others with short-term coverage needs, like people who are in between jobs. Its plans provide out-of-network coverage, low out-of-pocket limits, low deductibles and good coverage for the cost. Often, plans with low out-of-pocket limits and coinsurance cost more in terms of monthly premiums and annual deductibles. Everest Reinsurance Company offers a good balance for people on a budget because the out-of-pocket and coinsurance costs are low, but premiums aren’t necessarily more expensive.

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If you’re unemployed, health insurance may feel out of reach. Short-term health insurance may be tempting because it can seem cheaper than buying coverage. But it may not be your best value, because there are so many ways to get health insurance even without a job or income. Check out all your options; you may be able to get better coverage for less by shopping around.

Best Short-Term Health Insurance Company for Travelers

It’s wise not to go globetrotting, or even across state lines, without health insurance. If you get sick or injured on the road, it could cost you. If you need short-term coverage while traveling, Everest Reinsurance Company may offer the right plans for you. Monthly premiums range from $76.15 to $641.03.

Best Short-Term Travel Health Insurance: Everest Reinsurance Company

Everest

pros

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Indemnity plan lets you get care almost anywhere

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Low out-of-pocket limits and deductibles

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Term lengths as short as three months

cons

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Available in fewest states

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Only one short-term plan type available

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No generic prescription drug coverage

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

With a short general waiting period and terms as short as three months, Everest Reinsurance Company plans can be great options for travelers. Out-of-network coverage and the indemnity plan design give travelers the flexibility to get care when they’re away from home.

Best Short-Term Health Insurance for Generic Prescription Drugs

If you take medications, it can be crucial to have health insurance. Even generic drugs can be expensive if you have to pay for them in cash. But you’ll want to make sure your insurance covers your prescriptions.

UnitedHealthcare was our pick for the best short-term health insurance company for generic prescription drug coverage because most of its short-term plans offer this coverage. Monthly premiums range from $21.15 to $659.96.

Best for Generic Prescription Drug Coverage: UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare

pros

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Most plans include generic drug coverage

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Many options for plan types, term lengths and out-of-pocket spending limits

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Short general waiting period

cons

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Highest application fee

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Highest out-of-pocket spending limits

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Most expensive short-term plan on the market

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

UnitedHealthcare, MoneyGeek’s pick for best overall short-term health insurance company, also wins for best generic drug coverage because most of its plans offer generic prescription drug coverage. Its plans also provide decent value, with the most low-cost plans that are actually worth the money. With deductibles from $1,000 to $15,000 and low out-of-pocket spending limits, some UnitedHealthcare plans are relatively inexpensive.

Best Short-Term Health Insurance Company Without Application Fee

To get short-term health insurance, you often have to pay an application fee. These fees range from $0 to $40. Independence American Insurance Company is the best option for short-term coverage without an application fee. Monthly premiums range from $67.12 to $1,029.34.

Best Without Application Fee: Independence American Insurance Company

American Independent Ins Co

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No application fees

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No waiting period

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Many plan options

cons

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Shortest plan term is six months, which may be too long for some customers

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Many plan options but only one plan type

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Out-of-network coverage not available on all plans

COMPANY HIGHLIGHTS

If you don’t want to pay a fee to get short-term coverage, Independence Insurance Company offers the best options. Plans offering up to $2 million in coverage are relatively cheap and about half the plans include generic prescription drug coverage.

Application fees can be as high as $35 or $40 — more than the monthly premium for some plans. If you’re looking for short-term coverage, adding a whole month’s worth of expense or more may not make sense. Independence American Insurance Company saves you that extra cost, though its plans start at six-month terms.

How to Choose the Perfect Short-Term Health Plan for You

Short-term health insurance plans aren’t right for everyone. They don’t tend to cover very much and they can be pricey. But, if you have a temporary gap in coverage and no other options, they can help you avoid being exposed financially if you need health care services.

Finding the best short-term plan can be overwhelming, but we’ve outlined the key steps you can follow, from assessing your needs to comparing options based on the criteria that matter most to you.

1

Think realistically about how long you’ll need coverage.

Short-term plans can last anywhere from three months to three years. If you know how long your coverage gap will last, like if you’re starting school or a new job at a particular time, you can choose the right plan duration. If you’re unsure, you may want to err on the side of longer coverage so you don’t get caught uninsured.

Remember that short-term health insurance is designed for temporary needs. If your gap in coverage could stretch longer than a few months or you don’t know how long it may be, it could be better to explore Marketplace plans.

2

Look at your medical history and assess the chances that you’ll need to use health care services.

Short-term health insurance companies aren’t required to offer all the essential health benefits covered by Affordable Care Act-compliant plans. Make sure you know what is covered in any plan you’re considering. If you know you have specific needs, such as a particular medication or access to a type of specialist, pay close attention to what those things will cost you on each plan. Narrow down your choices to plans that cover what you know you’ll need. If you have a complex medical history or a high risk of needing care, consider more comprehensive coverage, because you could spend a lot out-of-pocket on a short-term plan.

3

Examine your travel habits and plans.

Not all plans cover you when you’re away from home. If you travel a lot or have upcoming travel plans, you’ll want to find a plan with out-of-network coverage. Indemnity plans are likely to offer you the most flexibility to see health care providers wherever you may be. On the other hand, you may want to avoid HMOs, EPOs or network plans, which restrict you to specific providers contracted with the plan. Those may look cheaper, but if you need services outside the network, it’s likely to be much more expensive if it’s covered at all.

4

Calculate how much you’re willing to spend.

A good rule of thumb is to spend about 10% of your income on health insurance. That may not be realistic, depending on where you live, because monthly health insurance costs can vary widely by state. When you’re thinking about what you can afford to spend on health insurance, don’t just look at the monthly premium. Consider the annual deductible (the amount you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance kicks in) and other costs such as copayments and coinsurance (the percent of medical bills) that you’ll have to pay until you reach your out-of-pocket maximum or spending limit. Also, think about what you’re getting for your money. MoneyGeek’s ratings consider the coverage-to-cost ratio or the value of the coverage you’re getting with each plan.

If you have savings and no major health risks or conditions, you may be safe opting for a lower premium and higher deductible plan. But if you would struggle with huge out-of-pocket responsibilities, paying a bit more each month to know you’re covered may be worthwhile.

5

Check out all your options.

Health insurance that seems cheaper because of low premiums can cost you more if it doesn’t cover what you need. With expanded subsidies available on the health insurance marketplace, you may be able to spend less for better coverage.

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Feeling overwhelmed? Start with whatever’s most important to you, such as the monthly cost or coverage for a specific drug, service or coverage when you’re away from home. Narrow down your search based on your needs and preferences and start with options that fit your criteria.

Should You Get Short-Term Health Insurance?

Short-term health insurance is designed for people who need to fill temporary gaps in coverage. For example, if you graduate from college and know you’re starting a job with benefits in a few months, short-term insurance may be a good low-cost option. Or, you may have started a job but have to get through a waiting period for benefits to kick in. Only go this route if you’re generally healthy with few health risks.

Short-term insurance is not ideal for people who are uninsured for longer periods or who have more serious health care needs. These plans aren’t required to cover things that other health insurance must include, such as maternity care or coverage for preexisting conditions.

1

You lost your job and need coverage right away.

If you suddenly find yourself without a job or health insurance coverage, and you can’t afford COBRA (which lets you keep your employer’s health insurance but requires you to pay the full cost), short-term health insurance could be a way to make sure you’re covered while you figure out a longer-term solution.

2

You’re in between coverage.

If you have a defined gap in coverage, such as after you graduate from college or graduate school but before you start a job, short-term insurance can be a relatively quick and inexpensive way to protect yourself.

3

You’re in a waiting period for benefits at a new job or to qualify for other benefits, such as Medicare.

Short-term health insurance may be a good option if you’ve got a job with benefits but you need to wait until you’re eligible for them. In this case, you know you’re going to be covered and can plan for that specific period.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Not sure if short-term health insurance is right for you? Overwhelmed by the options? See our frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help you get started.

Methodology

To determine the best short-term health insurance companies, MoneyGeek analyzed more than 3,000 short-term health insurance plans from various companies across America, rating each company’s product offering based on the number of options, state availability, coverage-to-cost ratio, and more.

About the Author


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Deb Gordon is author of The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto (Praeger 2020), a book about shopping for health care, based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government between 2017 and 2019. Her research and writing have been published in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, TheHill, and Managed Care Magazine. Deb previously held health care executive roles in health insurance and health care technology services. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow, and an Eisenhower Fellow, for which she traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore to explore the role of consumers in high-performing health systems. She was a 2011 Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree, and a volunteer in MIT’s Delta V start-up accelerator, the Fierce Healthcare Innovation Awards, and in various mentorship programs. She earned a BA in bioethics from Brown University, and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.