Everything you need to know about short-term health insurance

31368646 - horizontal view of happy patient at doctor's officeShort-term health insurance is generally cheaper than annual health insurance because there are significantly fewer conditions covered by these plans, and they’re charged based on a daily rate. If you’ve considered purchasing short-term health insurance in lieu of long-term insurance that typically allows you to renew each year, here’s what you should know before signing any forms:

Pre-existing conditions

The purpose of short-term health insurance is to cover an individual or family’s health expenses during a brief period of unexpected coverage gaps. Unfortunately, these types of insurance policies rarely cover treatments related to pre-existing conditions because those are considered to be long-term medical issues that cannot be adequately resolved with a short-term health plan.

If you have a pre-existing condition and need regular care for a medical concern, then a short-term health insurance plan might not be a good option for your situation.

Mental health coverage

Similar to the pre-existing condition exclusion, many short-term health insurance policies exclude mental health coverage because this is also viewed as a long-term concern. Many short-term policies last anywhere between 30 days to 12 months, but mental illness treatment, therapy and medications are possibly needed for much longer. If your primary reason for seeking out short-term insurance is to cover mental health related costs, then consider long-term health insurance for better access to the care you need at a price you can afford.

Maternity care

Short-term health insurance is not designed to help uninsured folks or people dealing with gaps in coverage pay for maternity-related costs like prenatal care, hospitalizations, newborn screenings and postpartum depression evaluations. However, there are several government programs available for pregnant women, so check the Department of Health and Human Services’ list of resources before researching short-term health insurance plans.

Travel insurance

Short-term health insurance is an excellent option for Americans traveling abroad and wanting to minimize medical costs if an emergency were to occur. Domestic health insurance plans typically do not cover medical expenses in other countries, so this type of short-term health insurance is ideal for international travelers. Just be careful about reading the fine print when it comes to what’s covered in what countries and up to how much. Some policies may even include side benefits like lost luggage insurance and trip cancellation coverage.

What do all those health insurance initials mean?

24284604 - portrait of a worried young couple looking at paperDo you know the difference between a PPO and a POS? Which type of health insurance plan is best for you and your family? Take a look below so you can make some headway through the alphabet soup of insurance coverage.


PPO stands for “Preferred Provider Organization.” Under this type of plan, you’re given a network of providers, and you’re free to see any of them (including specialists) without a referral. Sometimes, you are still required to choose a PCP (Primary Care Physician), but sometimes not.


HMO stands for “Health Maintenance Organization.” Just as in a PPO, you are presented with a network of providers. However, unlike a PPO, you must choose a PCP who will refer you for any necessary care. The provider network is also generally smaller than that of a PPO.


POS stands for “Point of Service” and is a blend of the PPO and the HMO systems. Although you’ll still need to pick a PCP, you have the flexibility of going outside the designated network for care – provided you’re willing to pay a bit more.


EPO stands for “Exclusive Provider Organization.” In this type of plan, you still have a network of providers, but unlike a POS, there is no coverage at all if you go outside the network. The only exception is likely to be in the event of an emergency.

Choosing the right health insurance plan can be confusing

Even when you know what all the letters stand for, it can still be difficult to choose the right health insurance plan – and the above list is by no means comprehensive. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to contact your insurance broker about the best kind of coverage for you.