ACA vs. short-term insurance

When it comes time to choose an insurance plan, it’s important to know all the ins and outs of what’s available. That way, you can feel confident you’re picking the option that fits you best. Luckily, there are different plans for different stages of life that give you just what you need. Read on to learn about Affordable Care Act (ACA) and short-term limited duration insurance health plans.

ACA health insurance

ACA insurance plans are sold on the health care Marketplace (also called the Exchange). In most cases, ACA plans are subsidized by the Federal or State government, which typically leads to a lower monthly premium.

These ACA plans are plans people can buy on their own, instead of through an employer or another government-run program, like Medicare or Medicaid. An ACA plan is a good fit if you need coverage for a full calendar year for you or your family.

An ACA plan might be a good fit if…

  • Your job doesn’t offer health insurance
  • You want long-term coverage for your family
  • You want comprehensive benefits
  • You qualify for a premium tax credit

Short-term health insurance

A short-term insurance plan is a good fit if you need to bridge a gap for a short time when you’re uninsured. Short-term plans give you limited coverage for a limited time until you can move to a more permanent plan.

Maybe you’re a recent college grad, in between jobs, or an early retiree. In some cases, you may choose a short-term plan to cover your children if you’re not able to get a family plan right away. Unlike ACA plans, short term plans don't cover preexisting conditions, and you must answer a series of medical questions to apply.

A short-term plan might be a good fit if…

  • You missed Open Enrollment and don’t qualify for a Special Enrollment Period
  • You’re waiting for your ACA plan to start
  • You’re looking for coverage until you join Medicare
  • You’re turning 26 and coming off a parent’s plan
  • You’re between jobs or waiting for benefits to start
  • You’re healthy and under 65

ACA vs. short-term benefits and coverage

Still wondering which one might be best for you? Take a look at this table to see some of the major differences between these 2 types of health insurance plans.


ACA plans vs short term plans - enrollment
  ACA Plans Short term plans

When can I enroll?

Open Enrollment or during Special Enrollment Period due to a qualified life event.

Enrollment dates for 2023 plans are: November 1, 2022 to January 15, 2023

Apply any time

Is there underwriting?

No, you’re guaranteed a plan

Yes, depending on your health history you could be denied

How long am I covered?

A full calendar year (or longer if you keep paying your premium)

Generally 1 to nearly 12 months with up to 2 chances to apply again after the first plan (varies by state)

What’s the monthly premium?

Varies based on the plan and personal factors (like if you smoke tobacco)

Varies based on the plan and personal factors (like if you smoke tobacco)

Popular plan details

ACA plans vs short term plans - Popular plan details
  ACA Plans Short-term plans

Preventive care


Limited or none (varies by plan)

Doctor visits


Varies based on plan

Emergency care


Varies based on plan

Hospital care


Varies based on plan

Virtual care


Varies based on plan

Prescription drug coverage


Limited or none (varies by plan)

Maternity and newborn care


Varies based on plan

Are preexisting conditions covered?



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