Frequently asked questions about
short-term health insurance in Washington
Yes, LifeMap (part of USAble Life) offers short-term health plans in Washington.
As of 2020, LifeMap was the only insurer offering short-term health insurance plans in Washington. But the state implemented various new regulations related to covered benefits, nondiscrimination, etc. in late 2020, and LifeMap announced soon thereafter that they would need to indefinitely suspend sales until if and when they could bring their products into compliance with the new rules.
LifeMap announced in June 2021 that they were resuming sales, as they had completed the process of bringing their products into compliance with Washington’s new rules.
Short-term plans cannot be sold during open enrollment with the same effective dates that would apply to ACA-compliant plans, but sales resumed again as of mid-January 2022, when the open enrollment period for ACA-compliant coverage ended.
LifeMap is once again offering short-term health plans in Washington state, as of late June 2021.
In line with the state’s rules, LifeMap is not allowed to sell short-term plans during the open enrollment period for ACA-compliant coverage if the effective dates would align with ACA-compliant plan effective dates (ie, short-term plans with January effective dates cannot be sold between November 1 and December 15; short-term plans with February effective dates cannot be sold between December 16 and January 15).
We are not currently aware of any other insurers offering short-term health insurance in the state.
We recommend that you first check to see if you’re eligible to enroll in an ACA-compliant major medical plan. These plans are available during open enrollment in the fall/winter (November 1 through January 15) and during special enrollment periods.
In most cases, a qualifying life event is necessary in order to have a special enrollment period, but that’s not always the case (for example, Native Americans can enroll year-round through the marketplace).
ACA-compliant plans are purchased on a monthly basis, so you can enroll in coverage even for only a few months until another policy takes effect — and if you’re eligible, you may qualify for financial assistance in the form of a premium subsidy.
If you’re shopping for a short-term health plan in Washington, you’ll want to make sure you understand the specific healthcare benefits the plan will provide. Washington’s rules for short-term plans are stricter than most states, but short-term plans are still not as robust as ACA-compliant coverage, and cannot be used for more than three months in Washington.
But there may be situations where it makes sense to use a short-term plan, 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 are newly employed and have a waiting period until you can be covered by your new employer’s health insurance plan; short-term insurance may provide a much more affordable (but less comprehensive) stopgap than COBRA or an ACA-compliant plan.
- If you will soon be eligible for Medicare.
- If you’re not eligible for Medicaid or a premium subsidy in the exchange, an ACA-compliant plan might be unaffordable. The American Rescue Plan has eliminated the “subsidy cliff” for 2021 and 2022, but people who are caught in the ACA’s family glitch might find ACA-compliant coverage to be unaffordable.
Regardless of the circumstances, you’ll only be able to be enrolled in a short-term plan for a maximum of three months within any given 12-month period, so short-term plans do not provide an affordable or long-lasting substitute for regular healthcare insurance.
The federal regulations implemented by the Trump administration in 2018 are clear in noting that states may impose tighter regulations. And Washington’s insurance commissioner, Mike Kriedler, who has called short-term plans “a poor solution for consumers,” announced in March 2018 that his office would begin the process of rule-making to define short-term plans at the state level.
An outline of the proposed regulations was published in June 2018. The official draft regulation notice was published on August 21, 2018, and public comments were accepted until September 24, 2018.
The rule was officially adopted in October 2018. It was adopted as proposed, except the rule requiring 20 days’ notice before a rescission or cancellation was adjusted for circumstances in which there are fewer than 20 days remaining in the plan’s duration.
The new regulations, which took effect in January 2019, include the following provisions:
- Short-term plans are limited to three months in duration with no renewals allowed.
- Insurers are prevented from selling short-term plans to an applicant who had already had three months of short-term coverage in the prior 12 months.
- Short-term plans are required to cover a list of basic inpatient, outpatient, and surgical services.
- Short-term plans must continue coverage (with no additional premiums) if the insured is hospitalized on the date that the short-term plan would otherwise have ended. The extension of coverage would last until the patient is discharged from the hospital.
- The lookback period for pre-existing conditions is limited to no more than 24 months (i.e., a pre-existing condition that hadn’t had symptoms or treatment for more than 24 months cannot be excluded).
- A short-term insurer must offer at least one plan with a per-person deductible of $2,000 or lower.
- The sale of short-term plans is banned during the open enrollment window that applies to ACA-compliant plans, if the short-term coverage is to take effect in January or February. So short-term plans can’t be sold in direct competition with ACA-compliant plans during open enrollment. State regulators noted that this is to help avoid confusion for consumers, since short-term plans purchased during open enrollment would take effect before the start of the new year, whereas ACA-compliant plans sold during open enrollment would take effect January 1 of the coming year (open enrollment for ACA-compliant plans in the individual market now runs from November 1 to January 15, and Washington’s rules have been updated to align with this).