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Availability of short-term health insurance in North Carolina

North Carolina follows federal regulations that limit the initial duration of temporary health insurance to 364 days

In North Carolina, federal regulations regarding short-term health insurance apply, which means consumers can buy short-term health insurance plans – and can get policies with initial terms up to 364 days with the option to renew for a total duration up to 36 months (some insurers impose more restrictive term and duration limits).

As of 2022, there were at least seven insurers selling short-term health insurance plans in North Carolina.

Frequently asked questions about short-term health insurance in North Carolina

Yes. As of 2022, there were at least seven insurers offering short-term health insurance in North Carolina.

Short-term health insurance in North Carolina follows state statute (§ 58-3-225) which outlines short-term plan duration as described under federal rules (defined in Part 144 of Title 45 of the Code of Federal Regulations).

Until October 2018, the federal definition limited short-term plans to three months in duration and prevented renewal, so short-term plans. But the federal rules were relaxed at that point by the Trump administration, increasing the availability of short-term plans as a stand-in for comprehensive coverage. Under current federal rules, short-term plans are allowed to have initial terms of up to 364 days, and total duration, including renewals, of up to 36 months. States can set more stringent rules, but North Carolina has opted to default to the federal term limits for short-term health insurance.

As of 2022, there were at least seven health insurance companies offering short-term healthcare coverage in North Carolina, although plan availability varies based on where you live:

  • Choice Advantage
  • Companion Life
  • Everest Prime
  • Independence American Insurance Company
  • National General
  • The North River Insurance Company
  • United Healthcare (Golden Rule)

Some of these insurers limit the availability of their plans to shorter durations, but some do offer 364-day plans with renewals allowed for a total of 36 months of coverage.

Short-term health insurance in North Carolina can be purchased by applicants who can meet underwriting guidelines created by participating insurers. This mostly means being under 65 years old (some insurers put the age limit at 64 years) and in fairly good health.

Short-term health insurance plans typically include blanket exclusions for pre-existing conditions, so the plans sold are not adequate for someone who needs continuing or comprehensive medical care.  If that describes your situation, it is advisable to seek an ACA-compliant policy that will cover those needs.

It’s also important to pay close attention to the plan details if you’re considering a short-term healthcare policy. Most short-term plans do not cover all of the ACA’s essential health benefits for enrolled members; maternity care, prescriptions, and mental health care are often not covered by short-term plans. Before purchasing a policy, make sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not.

If you need health insurance in North Carolina, your first step should be to check your eligibility to buy an ACA-compliant (Obamacare) major medical plan through the health insurance exchange/marketplace in North Carolina (or outside the exchange, although financial assistance is only available if you buy the plan through the exchange). These plans can be purchased during open enrollment (November 1 to January 15) or during a special enrollment period.

There are various qualifying life events that will trigger a special enrollment period and allow you to buy an ACA-compliant plan. Marketplace plans are purchased on a month-to-month basis, so you can enroll even if you only need the coverage for a few months, and can obtain a premium subsidy for the time that you have the coverage, if your income is in the subsidy-eligible range.

There are times when short-term health coverage may be the only realistic option, for example:

  • If you missed open enrollment for ACA-compliant coverage and do not have a qualifying event that would trigger a special enrollment period.
  • You’re in the coverage gap because North Carolina has refused to expand Medicaid and your income is below the poverty level.
  • If you’ll soon be eligible for Medicare and are just needing a few months of coverage for unexpected medical events that might arise before you reach the age of 65. Be aware that although Medicare will cover pre-existing conditions regardless of your insurance history, Medigap plans can impose a waiting period of up to six months for pre-existing conditions for which you didn’t have prior coverage. Since most short-term health plans have blanket exclusions for pre-existing conditions, this is something to keep in mind.
  • If you’ve recently become employed and signed up for your employer’s health plan, but have a waiting period before it takes effect. Note that if you also have a qualifying event that would allow you to sign up for one of the ACA-compliant insurance policies in your area, you could use that instead of a short-term plan for the time period before your employer’s coverage starts. But if not, a short-term plan might be your only option.
  • If you’re not eligible for Medicaid benefits or a premium subsidy on an ACA-compliant plan from the exchange. In this case, the ACA-compliant plans available to you might not be affordable, and a short-term plan might be the most realistic option, despite the less robust coverage. Although the American Rescue Plan has made subsidies larger and more widely available through the end of 2022, there are still some people who don’t qualify for subsidies, even with low or modest incomes. They include people who are affected by the ACA’s family glitch, as well as undocumented immigrants (lawfully present immigrants can qualify for subsidies, but undocumented immigrants cannot enroll in a marketplace plan at all, even without subsidies).

North Carolina has various requirements that apply to short-term health insurance plans, as outlined in the state’s rate/form filing guidance for short-term health plans.

North Carolina’s regulations also indicate that an individual would be considered continuously insured (with creditable coverage) if they had short-term coverage prior to enrolling in an employer-sponsored plan, as long as the short-term coverage duration wasn’t more than 12 months.

(Note that federal rules were different pre-ACA, when enrollees could have pre-existing condition waiting periods on employer-sponsored group plans if they hadn’t maintained continuous coverage prior to enrolling in the group plan; that is no longer a factor, as group policies cannot impose pre-existing condition waiting periods even if the person didn’t have prior continuous coverage.)

Not sure if short-term health insurance is right for you? Explore other health insurance options in North Carolina.

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