If you’re uninsured in Washington, D.C., short-term health insurance is one option available to you. It’s a quick, economical way to secure coverage while you’re between job-based or individual major medical plans.
What is Short-Term Health Insurance?
Short-term health insurance is temporary health insurance that can last as little as one month. It is designed to help protect your finances from unexpected medical bills during a coverage gap. As such, plan benefits typically include doctor office visits, urgent care, emergency services, hospitalization, and surgery.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) doesn’t apply to short-term health insurance, which means short-term and ACA plans differ in some important ways. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with these differences in order to select the best coverage for your present situation.
D.C.-specific rules for short-term health plans
The District of Columbia limits short-term policies to three months and doesn’t allow extensions or renewals.1 This differs significantly from federal regulations, which cap short-term policies at 364 days and allow renewals up to 36 months.2
Additionally, in Washington, D.C., you cannot be denied short-term health insurance based on your health history and your policy cannot exclude preexisting conditions for which you’ve sought treatment within 12 months of your application date.3 This is not typical of short-term coverage, which often comes with exclusions.4
What You Need to Know
Short-term health insurance provides temporary benefits to help with the cost of healthcare due to injury or unforeseen illness.
D.C. requires short-term plans to cover preexisting conditions and prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on health history.
Short-term policies last from 30 to 90 days in Washington, D.C., and renewals are not allowed.
Is Short-Term Health Insurance Right for Me?
Some reasons short-term coverage could make sense in your situation include:
Short-term health insurance premiums tend to cost less than unsubsidized ACA premiums. If you don’t qualify for subsidies and can’t otherwise afford coverage, you may find a short-term plan is within your budget.
You can buy short-term plans any time and, once your application is approved, opt to begin coverage as soon as the next day. There are no open or special enrollment requirements.
Short-term health insurance can be a good fit during transitional periods, such as when you:
- Are between employer-sponsored health plans.
- Start a new job with a benefits waiting period.
- Turn age 26 and age off your parent’s health insurance.
- Move to a new ZIP code and lose coverage.
- Lose coverage due to divorce.
Three Months Only
Because short-term health insurance plans are only available for up to three months in Washington, D.C., they are truly designed to be short-term — such as when you’re between jobs or other life changes.
Why Wouldn’t a Short-Term Plan Be Right for Me?
Short-term health insurance isn’t a fit for everyone. You may decide to enroll in an ACA plan instead due to factors such as:
If you qualify for income-based subsidies, an ACA plan will provide you with the broadest benefits at the lowest price.
Only ACA plans include all of the essential health benefits, including preventive care and pregnancy. If you want or need access to these benefits, then a short-term plan will not offer enough coverage.
Still not sure which health insurance is right for you? Browse our short-term health health insurance FAQ.
Better Fit for Baby
If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have a newborn baby, a traditional ACA plan will likely be a better fit for you. Otherwise, a short-term plan may be worth considering in D.C.
How Much Do Short-Term Plans Typically Cost in the District?
What you personally pay for temporary health insurance will depend on factors such as the plan you select as well as your age, sex, ZIP code and tobacco use.
You’ll want to find coverage you can afford to buy and also afford to use. Pay attention to additional costs, including but not limited to the following:
- Plan deductible — What you pay out of pocket before your benefits take effect.
- Copayment — A fixed amount you pay for covered services, often at the point of service (e.g., doctor’s office, urgent care).
- Coinsurance — The percentage you pay for covered medical expenses once you meet your deductible.
- Total policy coverage — The maximum amount your insurance company will pay for covered expenses during your policy duration before you must pay 100% of additional medical bills. This may also be known as the coverage period max benefit.
- Maximum out-of-pocket — The limit on what you pay out of pocket for coinsurance on covered expenses before your insurance policy pays 100%.
You can generally expect a plan with a lower premium will have higher cost-sharing and vice versa. Familiarizing yourself with health insurance terms can help make the shopping process easier.
How Can I Buy D.C. Short-Term Health Insurance?
Contact a licensed health insurance agent or broker for help finding a short-term health plan in Washington, D.C.
Health insurance isn’t one-size-fits-all. As you gather quotes and narrow your options, keep your budget and your healthcare needs in mind. Check out our buyer’s guide to health insurance for help getting started.