Are Short-Term Policies A Good Buy? We Asked Consumer Reports

Short term health insurance isn’t as cheap as you think

| While limited coverage plans have low premiums, there are other costs you need to consider

| Donna Rosato,  Consumer Reports – When Jeanne Balvin had emergency surgery for diverticulitis in June 2017, her short-term health insurance plan – a policy she bought instead of more comprehensive insurance – covered most of the bills after she paid a $2,500 deductible.

But when she landed back in the hospital with an abdominal infection a few weeks later, she says her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, wouldn’t cover the charges – and then canceled the three-month policy she had just renewed.

UnitedHealthcare said the infection was a pre-existing condition related to the diverticulitis and wouldn’t be covered under terms of the contract.

And when Balvin, 61, was hospitalized a third time at the end of July – this time for a blood clot probably caused by inactivity following the hospitalizations – she had no insurance at all, leaving her with $97,000 in hospital bills.

UnitedHealthcare, in a statement to Consumer Reports, said it could not comment specifically on the Balvin’s situation.

But the company emphasized that short-term plans are meant to be stop-gap measures, and offer less comprehensive coverage than insurance sold on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges or employer-based plans.

Those are limitations that Jeanne and her 63-year-old husband, Norm – both retirees who live outside of Phoenix – say they thought they understood.

They knew the premiums were much more affordable than ACA-compliant plans because short-term insurance covers far less. Jeanne’s policy was just $274 a month, one-third of what an ACA plan would cost her.

“We took a calculated risk,” says Norm, who carries ACA insurance himself because a melanoma diagnosis disqualifies him from most non-ACA-compliant plans.

“Jeanne was in good health, and the premiums were so much less. That made a big difference in our budget.” Read more at Consumer Reports. 


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