How to Make Changes to Your Health PlanApril 16, 2018
Sometimes life changes mean that your health plan no longer works for you. Maybe you’ve had a baby and you need to switch from individual to family coverage, or you lost your job and suddenly find yourself without health insurance.
Normally, if you want to make changes to your health plan, you need to wait for what’s known as the open enrollment period. In some cases, though, you might be able to change your plan outside this open enrollment window. It can be a confusing process, so let’s take a closer look at how to change your health insurance plan.
- What is Open Enrollment?
No matter what type of health plan you have, your benefits provider will offer a certain time each year called open enrollment. During open enrollment, you're free to switch to a new plan or make changes to your current plan. But once open enrollment ends, you must stay with the plan you chose until the next open enrollment period, which usually occurs once a year. Not sure when your open enrollment happens? Here are some ways to find out:
- Check with your employer
- Visit Healthcare.gov for Affordable Care Act (ACA) dates
- Visit Medicare.gov for Medicare's open enrollment dates, or visit Empire's Medicare Page
- Special Enrollment Qualifications
Sometimes big life events happen and you need to switch your health plan to keep up. If you have what’s called a qualifying event, most insurance companies will let you make changes to your health plan, even if it’s not open enrollment. This is known as a special enrollment period. According to HealthCare.gov, you’ll likely be allowed to change your plan outside the open enrollment period if you meet these requirements. Here are some common qualifying life events for special enrollment period:
- You’re newly married
- Had a new baby or adopted a child
Lost insurance coverage due to:
- Job loss or reduced hours
- Loss of dependent status
- Death of a spouse who maintained your insurance coverage
- Divorce or separation
Not every benefits provider recognizes the same special enrollment qualifications. For instance, some insurance companies let you change health insurance for things like becoming a U.S. citizen or moving (find out more about this here).
Visit Healthcare.gov for a complete list of qualifying events. In most cases, you'll have 30 days after one of these to choose a new health care plan.