When Can I Change My Health Insurance?
Some insurance products are relatively straightforward when it comes to the question of when to purchase. Home insurance? Before closing on a new home purchase. Auto insurance? You’ll be required to show evidence of insurance before you can take your new car off the lot. But what about health insurance? There are only certain times throughout the year when you can buy or change health insurance. You don’t HAVE to carry health insurance. However, life isn’t predictable – things happen and usually occur at times most unexpected.
Health insurance is designed to help pay for medical products or services, such as a doctor’s visit, a prescription, or hospitalization. By paying a monthly premium, you are provided with coverage to help cover the costs in the event of having to use it. When you go to the doctor, for example, the bill is first sent to your insurance company for payment and then you are billed for the remainder.
Open enrollment is an important time to make plan selection changes. If you are covered under an employer’s plan, this occurs one month prior to its renewal. If you are covered through a Marketplace Plan and the Affordable Care Act, open enrollment starts each year on November 1. Medicare open enrollment starts October 15 each year. Outside of this, you have to have a special election period to make any changes.
Here are major life events that allow you to elect or make changes to your health insurance plan selection. This change should be handled within 60 days of the date of the event. (We prefer to take care of it sooner than later.)
When you get married, you may – not always – want to be on the same policy as your spouse. By doing this, you would be working towards a deductible together. Also, your premiums could be less expensive combined versus each having a separate policy. Keep in mind some employers may not allow a spouse to be added if they are offered coverage through their employer.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, a divorce can be a difficult time – both on your mental health and on your finances as well. After you’ve figured out the logistics of the separation, you’ll want to make sure health insurance is handled too. If you were currently covered under your ex’s plan, once the divorce is final, this creates a special election period.
Adding a child.
Welcoming a child to the family – be that through birth or adoption – can be an expensive endeavor. You should always consider health insurance when you are the parent or guardian of a new child. In the situation of birth, coverage extends through the mother during the hospitalization. Then the child can be added to a plan as the dependent of the policyholder.
If you and your spouse are on separate plans, adding a child would allow you all to come together on a family plan due to this life-changing event. Keep in mind that an employer can restrict whether or not a spouse can be added.
Losing employer coverage.
Providing medical benefits is attractive to employees. If coverage is lost due to an employer canceling that benefit, it opens a special election period to secure coverage elsewhere.
Employer coverage is also lost when someone quits a job. If a new job offer is accepted, it is possible there is a waiting period before coverage can start. It is imperative to secure a short-term option in situations like this because the clock starts ticking from the termination date and it stops 62 days later.
If you are planning to retire soon, or even in the stages of laying out your retirement finances, you’ll want to consider what you are going to do if you haven’t aged into Medicare yet! Losing employer coverage due to retirement and not being eligible for Medicare can mean an added expense you weren’t planning for if you do not consider your options before making the decision.
Handle It Sooner Rather Than Later
Go into discovery and exploration mode before or as soon as one of these life-changing events occurred. You can no longer activate coverage whenever you want for health insurance. Knowing your options in advance and making a timely decision is crucial.
Our team at Hitchings Insurance Agency is here to help understand your situation and provide you with your available options when you encounter these life changes. Contact us today to put together your plan for health insurance.