A significant life change such as marriage, divorce, the death of a loved one or having a baby can come with unique challenges and adjustments to your daily routine. In addition to the everyday changes, a major life event may also change your needs financially, including your insurance needs. Fortunately, if you get benefits through your employer, there are steps you can take to ensure uninterrupted coverage if you experience a major shift in your family life.
For most employees, enrolling in or changing employer-provided benefits is usually limited to when you initially join the organization and during its annual benefits enrollment period (also known as “open enrollment”). But many of life’s big moments allow you to change your benefits outside of these periods if they’re considered a “qualifying life event.”
Beyond adjusting to your new circumstances, many of life’s big moments may allow you to change your health care benefits outside of the annual enrollment period.
What constitutes a qualifying life event?
While each employer’s policies may vary, generally speaking, a qualifying life event1 is a life-changing situation—sometimes planned, sometimes unexpected—that can necessitate a change in your benefits coverage. Depending on the type of coverage, qualifying events may include:
- Getting married
- Getting divorced
- Bringing children into the family through birth, adoption or foster care
- The death of an enrolled family member
- Being called to or from military duty
- Becoming disabled
- Caring for a sick loved one
- Becoming a U.S. citizen
- A covered child turning 26
- A change in full-time or part-time job status
- Moving to a state where your current coverage isn’t available
What changes can I make?
If your life event qualifies, your employer will typically allow you to make changes to your benefits such as adding or removing individuals from your health and life insurance coverage, increasing or decreasing coverage amounts, enrolling in or canceling various benefits and more. Changes can typically be made either 30 or 60 days after the qualifying life event happens, but you may want to act right away to ensure that you have appropriate and continuous coverage.
Remember that plan elections are then set for the remainder of the plan year unless you experience another qualifying event or until the next annual enrollment period—whichever is sooner—so be sure to choose carefully.
Adapting to your life
Life changes can be exciting, challenging, and frequently both. Whatever your circumstances are, being informed and acting promptly can help ensure the best possible benefits outcomes, so make sure you’re familiar with the steps you need to take. If you’ve experienced a qualifying life event, check your benefits materials or contact your employer to get started.