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Health Insurance for Kids – 3 Types of Child-Only Plans

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Can You Buy Child-Only Health Insurance?

In short, yes! There are several affordable health insurance options for kids, including:

  1. Short term health insurance plans: affordable, temporary coverage
  2. Major medical plans: ACA-compliant coverage sold through government and private exchanges
  3. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): state-based program providing low-cost coverage

We all want the best for our kids. It can probably be said that, as parents, most of us want them to enjoy a relatively worry-free existence. But when the family is uninsured, it can be tempting to take greater measures to keep everyone healthy and safe to avoid paying for unexpected medical care. Maybe this means trying to lessen the risk of injury by skipping the family ski weekend or not letting your child head off to summer camp with their best friend.

Ideally, parents and children should have minimum essential coverage as required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We know, however, that sometimes circumstances require us to make tough choices. Maybe your entire family is uninsured but you want to make sure that at least your kids have coverage.

If you’re looking for an affordable health insurance plan for your child (an individual plan as opposed to one offered through an employer’s benefits program), then you do have a few choices.

1. Short term health insurance for a child

Maybe you just need temporary benefits for a dependent until your employer’s plan kicks in, or maybe you’re looking for dependent-only coverage until the next Obamacare open enrollment period.

Short term health insurance provides benefits for 30 to 364 days (duration limits vary by state) and child-only policies are available for kids age 2 and older. A key advantage of temporary coverage for kids is cost – short term premium rates usually cost less than unsubsidized Obamacare plan premiums because policies cover less.

Get a quote to compare plans and benefits. It just takes a minute!

Get a Short Term Health Quote Now

Short Term vs Obamacare Child-Only Cost Comparison[0]

Monthly PremiumAnnual Deductible
Connect Value[1] (lowest-cost option through Health eDeals)$34.87$5,000
Bronze Plan[2] (lowest-cost Obamacare Plan, unsubsidized)*$199.03$7,900

* Bright Health – Bronze (Plan ID: 87247AZ0010006)

Keep in mind that short term plan rates are lower because short term plans offer coverage to help pay for unexpected and potentially high-cost illnesses and injuries.

They are not considered minimum essential coverage that fulfills the ACA’s individual mandate; they are not guaranteed-issue and do not include comprehensive benefits, such as vaccinations, autism screening, behavioral assessment, developmental screening, hearing and vision screening or other preventive care for kids.[3]

A general rule of thumb: The more robust the short term plan benefits, the higher the premium you are likely to pay.

A temporary plan could be the right option if your child:

  • Is 2 years old or older
  • Will be temporarily uninsured (30 to 364 days depending on your state)
  • Isn’t eligible for a special enrollment period outside of Obamacare open enrollment
  • Doesn’t qualify for an ACA subsidy and needs affordable health insurance
  • Needs coverage quickly (as soon as the next day)
  • Has a high likelihood of needing care outside a major medical plan network

How much is child-only short term health insurance? Find out now!

You may want to consider major medical if your child:

  • Is eligible for a special enrollment period outside of Obamacare open enrollment
  • Qualifies for an ACA subsidy (premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction)
  • Needs long-term coverage
  • Requires ongoing care or prescription drug coverage for pre-existing conditions

Explore major medical as an option.

2. Major medical health insurance for kids

When your child needs a long-term ACA-compliant health insurance solution, then major medical insurance is often the clear winner.

These plans may cost you more, but they qualify as minimum essential coverage, and they also include no-cost preventive care services and healthcare services in the 10 essential health benefits categories as outlined by the ACA (for example, Obamacare plans must include some pediatric oral and vision care at no additional cost).

Additionally, major medical plans are guaranteed issue, which means your child will not be denied coverage based on health history and pre-existing conditions must be covered.

Learn more about short term plans and how they differ from Obamacare.

Child-Only Short Term + Obamacare Premium Comparison[4]

Unsubsidized PremiumSubsidized Premium
Connect Value[5] (lowest-cost option through Health eDeals)$34.87Not applicable
Bronze Plan[6] (lowest-cost Obamacare Plan, unsubsidized)$199.03$175.03[7]

*Bright Health – Bronze (Plan ID: 87247AZ0010006)

Premium subsidies vary by household size and income. Estimate your subsidy with our ACA Subsidy Calculator.

An Obamacare plan could be the right option if your child:

  • Qualifies for an ACA subsidy (premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction)
  • Needs long-term coverage
  • Requires ongoing care or prescription drug coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • Is eligible for a special enrollment period
Did You Know?
Having a baby or adopting a child are qualifying events for a special enrollment period, but you only have 60 days from the time of the adoption or birth to obtain a health plan.  Learn more about special enrollment periods.
Whole Family Coverage
Insurance With Lower Monthly Premiums

Short term health insurance can provide temporary and limited benefits for a lower premium if you qualify. STM is not a replacement for comprehensive major medical coverage.

3. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Children’s Health Insurance Program is available to kids in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy an individual (or family) health insurance plan through, a state-based exchange or the private market.

Each state determines its own CHIP eligibility requirements, and the program name may also vary by state (select your state to find out what it’s called where you live). Learn more about CHIP and how to qualify here, or visit for your state’s CHIP profile.

You may want to look into the Children’s Health Insurance Program if your child: 

  • Needs a low-cost coverage option
  • Is eligible for CHIP based on your state’s program criteria
  • Requires coverage outside of an open or special enrollment period

What health insurance should you choose?

Above, we explained how different child-only health insurance plans apply to different circumstances. The table below offers a high-level comparison of the different coverage types.

If you need help determining what type of child-only health insurance will be best (and most affordable) for you, use Agent Finder to search for a local producer (i.e., agent or broker) who can help.

Compare Child-Only Short Term, Major Medical and CHIP

Short TermMajor MedicalCHIP
Next-Day Coverage AvailableTypically
Provider Choice*Limited by networkLimited by network
Year-Round Enrollment
Benefits for Pre-Existing Conditions or Preventive Care*
Get a Quote + Apply NowSpecial/ open enrollment only
Policies >90 days**
Guaranteed Issue
Income-Based Rates Available
Minimum Essential Coverage

*Some short term medical plans include limited benefits for pre-existing conditions.

**Short term medical durations vary by state. These policies are not available in some states.

Is short term health insurance right for your child? Read about the pros and cons.

Summary + Next Steps

There are 3 key options when it comes to child-only health insurance: short term plans, major medical coverage, and CHIP. Which option is best for you largely depends on circumstances such as affordability, healthcare needs, and Obamacare exemption status.

Shop around, compare plans and get help with your decision!

Find out what temporary coverage costs. (Get a quote.)

Read up on major medical insurance under the ACA.

Call (888) 855-6837 to request more information about child-only coverage, including short-term and major medical plans.

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Speak to a licensed health insurance agent during business hours for help understanding your options and enrolling in coverage.