Beware Short-Term Health Insurance Plans

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I often say that we aren’t in the name, but they are our people anyway, about Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The LLS advocates and helps not only those with the title diseases of leukemia and lymphoma, but all the blood cancers, including multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease. So, when they talk, those of us with myeloma should listen.

The LLS recently published a report showing that many of the so called STLD, or Short-Term Limited-Duration, health insurance plans are essentially scams that can be particularly harmful for those diagnosed with cancer.

Short-Term Health Insurance Scam

I used to be a financial planner, so I know a little something about money and insurance. I’m currently a cancer patient, so I know a little something about cancer and health insurance.

You can read the LLS report here, but here is the short version. These plans are supposed to be temporary stop-gap health insurance while you are in between getting real health insurance. But, they lobbied and got a rule change that allows them to offer you the plan for 12 months, and you can renew it like 3 times. As short-term plans, they do not have to meet the minimums that the Affordable Care Act requires of real health insurance plans.

Without that regulation, insurance companies basically turn these into non-paying health insurance that they charge you premiums for. It’s money for nothing.

In short, these policies often do not cover pre-existing conditions, even if the salesperson says otherwise. Even if they do cover it, they come with crazy deductibles and out of pocket maximums.

Regular Health Insurance

No matter what your politics are, you should have real health insurance, the kind that is regulated by the ACA. You know it is real health insurance if is NOT a “short-term” plan. Any policy you get through your employer, or from an ACA marketplace is regulated to have certain minimum coverage. The most important one for those of us with cancer is that there is no lifetime maximum payment of care.

The second most important is the annual out of pocket maximum. Short-term plans are common for six months. That means your out-of-pocket maximum of $10,000, for example, only counts for those six months. Even if you renew the policy, that $10,000 starts over.

Short-term health insurance is better than no health insurance, but if you are paying attention, you won’t need it for more than six months, or so, or maybe not at all.

Annual enrollment periods for real health insurance are at the end of the year, but you can enroll during the year if you have a qualifying “life event.” Those include getting married, having a kid, losing your health insurance (like if you lose your job), and even moving to a new state. The other event is if you become eligible (or ineligible) for health insurance subsidies, meaning if your income drops (or disappears), or you get poorer. You get the idea, if your life imploded somewhere, you can get real insurance.

You usually get 60 days after the event to sign up.

Keep Your Health Insurance

If your life didn’t blow up, and if you’re doing just fine, but you just never bothered to buy health insurance, well… you’re a fool.

I’m glad you are looking into it now. Buy a short-term health insurance policy for the minimum amount of time it takes for you to get to an enrollment window. If it’s July, grab a six-month policy. If you’re getting married in three months, grab a three-month policy.

Then, as soon as you get the chance, sign up for a real health insurance policy. Choose one that fits your income and premiums but pay special attention to the out-of-pocket maximum. With a single infusion costing $20,000+ deductibles and co-pays mean nothing to a cancer patient. All they do is change how fast, and in what way you hit, $7,500 or whatever.

Good luck. May any and all gods bless you and your care.

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