Short-term health plans in Mississippi
- Mississippi defaults to the federal rules for short-term plans.
- Short-term health insurance in Mississippi can have initial terms of up to 364 days, and total duration, including renewals, of up to 36 months.
- Short-term plans must be approved by the Mississippi Insurance Department.
- The Department has said they have no plans to limit short-term plan durations in the near future, and calls short-term plans a “good option” in some scenarios.
- At least seven insurers offer short-term health insurance in Mississippi.
Mississippi’s short-term health insurance regulations
Insurers are allowed to offer short-term health insurance in Mississippi with initial terms up to 364 days and the option to renew for a total duration of up to 36 months. This is in keeping with the regulations the Trump administration implemented in late 2018. Insurers can still cap their short-term plans at shorter durations, however, and prohibit renewal if they choose to do so.
Mississippi Insurance Department and short-term health insurance
All short-term plans in the state have to be filed with the Insurance Department and approved before they can be sold. The Mississippi Insurance Department confirmed in October 2018 that the state was working on requirements and regulations pertaining to short-term plans, so the rules might change in the future.
The Department has noted, however, that they do not plan to limit short-term plan duration — and will instead continue to follow federal regulations. This includes any potential state regulations which would address other issues (for example, things like filing requirements, disclosures, medical underwriting practices, state benefits mandates, etc.). As of January 2019, the Insurance Department confirmed that they had not yet finalized any new regulations, and were still considering the issue. This appears to still be the case as of 2020.
The Mississippi Insurance Department published a document in late 2019 that includes an explanation of how a short-term health plan could be an economical choice for some consumers, given the lower premium costs (assuming the person isn’t eligible for premium subsidies in the Mississippi exchange/marketplace) and potentially lower deductibles. They do note that “short-term health insurance may have limits that regular health insurance does not have (e.g., caps on annual benefits paid).” But they go on to state that “for stopgap coverage, these plans are a good option.”
This is a very different stance than insurance departments in many other states have taken, as insurance commissioners tend to warn consumers more strongly against short-term health insurance. But this is not surprising given that Mississippi’s government has tended to align itself with the Trump administration’s views on healthcare reform, as opposed to a pro-ACA (Obamacare) stance.
Which insurers offer short-term plans in Mississippi
At least seven short-term insurance providers offer short-term health insurance policies in Mississippi:
- Companion Life
- Everest Reinsurance
- Independence American Insurance Company
- National General
- UnitedHealthcare (Golden Rule)
Some of these insurers offer short-term policies with 364-day terms and renewability for up to three years, while others cap their plans at just six months in duration. Deductibles, benefits, exclusions, and provider network requirements vary from one plan to another, so it’s important to carefully read the fine print of the short-term health insurance options you’re considering.
Who can get short-term health insurance in Mississippi?
Short-term health insurance in Mississippi can be purchased by residents who can meet the underwriting guidelines of insurers. Generally, this means being under the age of 65 and in fairly good health (short-term health insurers will reject an application if the person does not meet their basic underwriting requirements).
Short-term health medical insurance plans usually exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, so these types of plans are not adequate for someone in the Magnolia State who needs medical care for ongoing or pre-existing conditions. Short-term health plans are also not required to cover essential health benefits (they often exclude benefits for maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health care, although additional essential health benefits are sometimes excluded). And they generally impose lifetime or per-incident benefit maximums, even for the services that they do cover.
If you need health insurance in Mississippi, your first step should be to see if you can buy an ACA-compliant major medical plan through the health insurance exchange (marketplace) in Mississippi. These plans are available during the annual open enrollment period in the fall (November 1 – December 15). And they’re also available if you’ve experienced a qualifying life event that triggers a special enrollment period (loss of coverage is a qualifying event, but note that it has to be minimum essential coverage; loss of a short-term health plan does not trigger a special enrollment period, because short-term health insurance is not minimum essential coverage).
If you’re eligible to purchase an ACA-compliant plan, you can buy it even if you’re only going to need it for a short while — while you’re waiting for Medicare to take effect, for example, or for coverage from a new job. ACA-compliant plans are purchased on a month-to-month basis, so you can enroll (with a premium subsidy if you’re eligible) and then cancel the coverage if and when your new policy becomes effective.
When should I consider short-term health insurance in Mississippi?
There are times when a short-term health insurance plan might be the only realistic option, such as:
- If you missed open enrollment for ACA-compliant coverage and do not have a qualifying event that would trigger a special enrollment period.
- If you’ll soon be enrolled in Medicare and aren’t eligible for an employer’s plan or a special enrollment period for an individual market plan to cover you in meantime. Note that although Medicare covers pre-existing conditions, Medigap policies can impose a pre-existing condition waiting period if you didn’t have coverage for your pre-existing conditions prior to enrolling in Medicare.
- If you’re newly-employed and have a waiting period before your employer’s health coverage takes effect.
- If you’re losing job-sponsored health coverage in the middle of the month and your new plan (from a new employer or in the ACA-compliant individual market) doesn’t take effect until the first of the following month. A short-term plan can provide stopgap coverage in the meantime, although COBRA might be a good fallback option if it’s available to you.
- If you’re not eligible for Medicaid or a premium subsidy in the exchange, the monthly premiums for an ACA-compliant plan might simply be too costly.
People who are ineligible for premium subsidies include:
- Those who earn more than 400% of the poverty level. (For 2021 coverage, that amounts to $51,040 for a single person. If your ACA-specific modified adjusted gross income is just a little above the subsidy-eligible threshold, there are steps you can take to reduce it).
- People who are caught by the ACA’s family glitch.
- People trapped in the coverage gap caused by Mississippi’s refusal to expand Medicaid. This affects adults with income below the poverty level who aren’t eligible for Medicaid (due to the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion) and also aren’t eligible for premium subsidies in the marketplace.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.