Short-term health plans in South Carolina
- South Carolina has its own state regulations regarding short-term health insurance policies.
- Short-term health insurance in South Carolina can’t last more than 11 months, with a total duration of 33 months (including renewals).
- At least six insurers offer short-term health insurance policies in South Carolina.
South Carolina short-term health insurance regulations
The South Carolina Department of Insurance published Bulletin 2018-08 in August 2018, to clarify the state’s rules for short-term health insurance in South Carolina.
In an effort to differentiate short-term health coverage from ACA-compliant health plans, South Carolina limits the initial term of a short-term plan to no more than 11 months, and total duration, including renewals, to no more than 33 months.
Although the South Carolina Department of Insurance lists short-term medical coverage as an option for people who lose their employer-sponsored coverage, they do clarify that it “does not provide the same protections as major medical coverage.” The Department of Insurance also notes that short-term healthcare plans “are designed to have lower monthly premiums [than ACA-compliant plans or employer-sponsored plans]. As a result, they have less coverage and consumer protections than major medical plans.”
Short-term plan duration in South Carolina
Short-term health insurance in South Carolina can’t last more than 11 months, with a total duration of 33 months (including renewals).
The Trump Administration’s regulations that took effect in late 2018 allow a short-term health insurance plan to have an initial term of up to 364 days and a total plan duration of up to 36 months, but the federal rules are clear in noting that a state can impose stricter guidelines.
South Carolina has chosen slightly shorter limits because ACA-compliant plans have one-year terms (if they’re purchased during open enrollment and take effect on January 1), and the 11-month limit on short-term plans is designed to help consumers understand that short-term coverage and ACA-compliant plans are not interchangeable.
Which insurers offer short-term plans in South Carolina?
At least six medical insurance companies offer short-term medical coverage in South Carolina:
- BlueChoice (prior to 2019, BlueChoice offered a short-term plan via a partnership with Companion Life, but it was not a Blues-branded product until 2019).
- BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina
- Everest Reinsurance
- Independence American Insurance Company
- National General
- United Healthcare (Golden Rule)
Some of the available plans can be issued for 11 months and renewed for a total duration of 33 months (the maximum allowed in South Carolina), while others have shorter maximum terms based on the insurer’s rules.
Who can get short-term health insurance policies in South Carolina?
Short-term health insurance in South Carolina can be purchased by residents who can meet the underwriting guidelines of insurers. In general, people can qualify for short-term health plans if they’re under 65 years old (some insurers will only issue plans to people who are under 64 years of age) and in fairly good health, but the specific requirements vary from one insurance company to another. In general, the applicant will have to answer a short list of questions about their medical history in order to apply for coverage, but short-term health insurance companies also tend to use post-claims underwriting.
Short-term health insurance plans usually include blanket exclusions for pre-existing conditions, so these types of plans are not adequate for someone in the Palmetto State who needs medical care for ongoing or pre-existing conditions. Short-term health plans also generally exclude coverage for some of the ACA’s essential health benefits (most commonly, maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health care), and impose dollar limits on the coverage they do provide. It’s important to double-check all of the plan information before purchasing a short-term policy, to make sure that you understand the limitations of the plan.
Before purchasing a short-term health insurance plan, you should check to see if you’re eligible for a special enrollment period that would allow you to enroll in an ACA-compliant (ie, Obamacare) individual major medical plan through the South Carolina exchange (marketplace). There are a variety of qualifying life events that will trigger a special enrollment period, and premium subsidies are available depending on your household income.
You can enroll in a marketplace plan even if you’re only going to need it for a short time. These insurance plans are purchased on a month-to-month basis, so you can cancel your coverage after just a few months if you become eligible for health coverage elsewhere (from a new employer, for example, or Medicare).
When should I consider short-term health insurance in South Carolina?
Depending on the circumstances, there could be times when a short-term health plan might 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.
- If you’ve recently become employed and the health plan your employer offers has a waiting period before benefits take effect (assuming you don’t also have a qualifying event that would allow you to enroll in an Obamacare plan while you wait for your employer’s plan to take effect).
- You’ll soon be eligible for Medicare and need just-in-case coverage until you reach age 65 and your Medicare coverage takes effect (note that Medigap insurers can impose a pre-existing condition waiting period if you don’t have coverage for your pre-existing conditions prior to enrolling in Medicare).
- If you’re not eligible for Medicaid or a premium subsidy in the marketplace (exchange), the monthly premiums for an ACA-compliant plan might be unaffordable.
People who are ineligible for premium subsidies include:
- Households with income above 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 ensnared by the ACA’s family glitch.
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.