Oh my god, please help me figure out temporary health insurance.
July 25, 2014 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I need temporary catastrophic health insurance for a month and a half, with a major complication: I'll be living in four different states (NY, PA, CA, and IL) in that time, so the state-specific Exchange options won't work. I just want to make sure I don't go bankrupt if I get hit by a bus on one or the other ends of the country!

I'm about to defend my PhD (sidenote: aaaaaahhh!!!), and am looking at a month and a half without health insurance before my postdoc begins. In that window I'll be traveling to stay with friends, and then permanently moving between states. I can cover my medications out of pocket and will see my normal doctors before I go off my current student plan, but obviously don't want to have to worry about being uninsured during a catastrophic accident or something during the interim.

I've seen posts that suggest calling a broker (how on earth do I find a reputable one?) or getting travel insurance (which as far as I can tell is mostly designed to cover trip expenses while outside the US, and aren't meant to be primary health insurance). My university's student health insurance office just wants me to buy their super-expensive semester-long plan, which I can't really afford to do. I am not eligible for COBRA or Medicare, and can't start my postdoc health insurance early.

I would also appreciate any suggestions for particular terms to avoid when comparing the plans I find online (such as the indemnity plans on ehealthinsurance.com), if there's anything I particularly need to watch out for.

Thank you so much!
posted by you're a kitty! to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The typical suggestion would be to get the Blue Cross temporary insurance in whatever state your permanent address is in. This may be complicated by the fact that 1) not all states are offering the Blue Cross cheap catastrophe insurance anymore because of the exchanges, and 2) there is typically a lifetime limit on this type of insurance, so if you've used it before you may not be eligible.

But I don't understand why the state-specific exchange won't work? Don't you have a 'permanent address' somewhere, like, where your credit card is billed to or something? That should be enough to get a temporary high deductible state exchange plan. If your insurance is based on your permanent address in say NY and you get hit by a bus in CA, generally your insurance will still be good in CA if it's a catastrophe type situation (which is different usually than like an out-of-network family doctor visit or whatever).

Also, are you sure you're not eligible for COBRA? If you've been on your school's health insurance, you very well might be eligible for COBRA. And you'd have 60 days to claim it, so you could just go the month and a half without and if something terrible happens claim COBRA then.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:39 AM on July 25, 2014

Lutoslawski: I'm definitely not elegible for COBRA, because I'm not considered a university employee. When I spoke to the NYS Exhange folks, they told me that I had to be in-state to use my insurance at all, though I suppose it's possible that they were mistaken.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:49 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

You may be eligible to go on your parents's insurance (depending on age) so check that out as an option.

Do you currently have a permanent address? Call the insurers in that state, Aetna, Blue Cross, United Healthcare and Cigna are major medical providers, and ask for a quote for the couple of months. Tell them you want the bare minimum you need to remain compliant with current laws. You'll get some options and you can pick the one that makes the most sense for you.

You'll spend about 45 minutes with each one, but that's okay, it's important.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:54 AM on July 25, 2014

I feel like either they misunderstood you or you misunderstood them - I've never heard of health insurance that doesn't provide *some* coverage when you're away from home. Can you look at the summary of coverage for a typical plan? See what the coverage is for out-of-network emergency care? Try talking to someone else (an insurance navigator?) and don't frame it as moving, just say you'll be traveling a lot. Which is true.
posted by mskyle at 9:57 AM on July 25, 2014

I have a permanent address with my parents in the sense that I can get mail there, but I'm not sure if I'm considered a legal resident there — I haven't lived at home for over a decade now, and my driver's license and voting registration are in a different state.

I am unfortunately too old to go on my folks' insurance.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:58 AM on July 25, 2014

In my state the exchange had a few options. I called them all to see what the deal was and the basic difference between Blue Cross/Blue Shield's options and the other one was that BCBS covered me when I was out of state and the other plan didn't or didn't do it well. Just try to get it at a place you can get your postal mail (and/or get it delivered to you) and don't really belabor the "I'm never going to be there" so much as the "I'll be doing a lot of traveling within the US, what happens if something happens to me when I am on vacation?" It's okay to be away from home for a few weeks and most states will have some option that will cover this at a catastrophic level. Maybe call the companies directly that seem like options for your state's exchange? I found that my exchange wasn't that helpful with plan specifics but the companies I called were very helpful. Assume you'll be spending between $500-1000 for two months of coverage. Start soon. I found that when I called once I got information from my previous employer, it was actually too late to get insurance for that month.
posted by jessamyn at 10:05 AM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

The exchange doesn't tell you where you can use it, the ins co does.

Call up a large provider in whatever state you currently reside in who has a plan you can afford and ask about their coverage while you are traveling domestically.

You'll probably just have to pay out of network costs at the worst.
posted by sio42 at 10:15 AM on July 25, 2014

Don't panic.

Are you eligible for COBRA? If so, what is the enrollment period for your plan? Does the plan allow a retro enroll. If that enrollment period is 90 days with retro to the plan end date then you could risk it. If you need then insurance enroll for COBRA.

When I was moving between jobs I was in a similar circumstance. The benefits person at my work pointed out that if I needed my COBRA because I had an accident during the uncovered period I could enroll in it retro to my leave date.
posted by 26.2 at 10:41 AM on July 25, 2014

Sorry - Just saw your follow-up re COBRA. Bummer!
posted by 26.2 at 10:44 AM on July 25, 2014

If you extend for a full semester and then cancel the policy after your new policy starts are you sure you will need to pay for the full semester? They might pro-rate the bill if you leave early.

Aside from that I would ignore the school offices and call the provider directly. Call your current provider and see if they will offer a limited extension. Similarly, find out who offers your post-doc insurance and see if they have a mechanism of filling the gap. It will be much easier here if you stick with a provider with which you have and existing relationship...

Whatever you do, make sure you do not have a gap in your coverage - I know the world has changed with respect to pre-exisiting conditions, but I would suggest that having no gap in coverage will always be safer, especially if laws change in the future...
posted by NoDef at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2014

Health insurance sold on the federal or state exchange is required to include coverage of emergency services outside of the plan's geographic area. You'd be covered if you're literally hit by a bus, or have some health emergency, wherever you travel in the US. If you need ongoing care, you would likely have to return home.
posted by Snerd at 11:25 AM on July 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I left the country for a while, my mom got me travel insurance. I thought it was silly since I was going to countries with socialized medicine, but she would not relent.

Most plans are for international travel, but this company has a domestic option. Good luck!
posted by ohisee at 11:32 AM on July 25, 2014

Since you seem pretty busy at the moment and don't (I assume) have any major health issues, I would second the recommendation for short-term health insurance. Check out Assurant.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:08 PM on July 25, 2014

I just bought short term insurance through Life Map. (that link includes my insurance broker's referral code, feel free to remove it if you don't feel like giving her the commission.)

I could have gotten insurance through COBRA but that was way more expensive (like hundreds of dollars more expensive.)
posted by vespabelle at 7:13 PM on July 25, 2014

After I graduated with my BS, I didn't start my job for a couple of months, so I asked my school's insurance office about this situation, and they pointed me to GradMed. I paid like $75 for two months of coverage.

That was, of course, for some absurdly high max out-of-pocket, with no provision whatsoever for non-emergency doctor visits, prescriptions, etc. And nothing bad happened to me, so I can't speak to how the claim process would be.
posted by jcreigh at 9:19 PM on July 25, 2014

Are you covered until the end of the month that you defend? If so, can you schedule your defense so that you defend on the first of the month that you will be taking off? That would at least reduce the extra insurance you would need to around two weeks.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:12 AM on July 26, 2014

« Older How do I "I do?"   |   I need an expert in Middle Eastern demonology Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.