By: Charlestien Harris
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is to make sure we have adequate health insurance for ourselves and our family members. Having health coverage is an essential part of being financially responsible; not having adequate health coverage has caused financial ruin for many families. This article is being written to sound the alarm about how important having the proper health coverage is.
In the next month or two, most employers will begin to advertise their open enrollment period for their employees and/or their dependents for next year’s benefit selection. Now is the time to take a look at your current health insurance plan and consider whether it meets your needs. Also, it would be beneficial to think about whether you have any life events coming up that could have an impact on the benefit package you select for next year. This could also be a good time to take a look at any “use-it-or-lose-it” flexible spending accounts, such as some health care and dependent-care accounts, to make sure you’re not missing out on reimbursements.
Here is a list of life changing events that might affect your health coverage plan, as well as the premium amount.
- Change of family status. When you experience a major shift in your family life, your benefits may also need to change. This change will more than likely affect the amount of your premium, and you will need to add or remove a dependent from your health plan. Family changes that count as qualifying life events include:
- Getting married
- Bringing children into the family with the birth of a baby, adoption, or foster care
- Death of a member enrolled in your health plan
- You or a dependent is turning 26. Health insurance coverage changes when you or a dependent turns 26. It is a “milestone” birthday in the healthcare industry – a signal for the baby birds to “leave the nest” of their parents’ health insurance and find their own coverage. If you just turned 26, you will be removed from your parents’ plan and now have to find your own policy. Some providers will notify you automatically, but don’t count on that. Review your policy regularly and make the necessary changes.
- Changing your address. Another change that can affect your health care plan is moving. It could be that you’re relocating to an area where your current coverage isn’t available. Or, you might be moving to an area where your current coverage is available, but there might be new plans to consider. If you’ve recently moved, be sure to review your health coverage to see if you still have the same benefits, or if they will change because you may now fall out of the “network” covered in your original plan.
- A change in your employment status. A change in employment status can also be considered a life event that will affect your health care coverage. The change could be voluntary or involuntary, such as: laid off, dismissed, resigned, quit, or retired. If you’ve experienced a job change, now is the time to review your health coverage as well. If you are retired or have been separated from your job, then the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) may be one of the options you consider.
- Turning 65 is another life changing event. Turning 65 is another moment that can affect your health care plan choices, and is considered a qualifying life event. This gives you a chance to look into your opportunities for a Medicare plan. The sign-up time for Medicare is three months before your 65th birthday or 3 months after that birthday. If you fail to sign up for Medicare, you will risk being assessed a 10 percent surcharge on your Medicare Part B for each year-long period you go without coverage upon being eligible. This could also affect your retirement benefits. Be sure to check so you can make any changes needed.
In most situations, you may need to make changes to your health plan within a specific time frame of the qualifying life event. Changes can most often be made either 30 or 60 days after the qualifying life event happened or during the open enrollment period your employer has set. Missing a deadline could mean having to wait until the next open enrollment, which could be as long as a year. That is why it is vitally important that you begin to review your health care policies early – if there are any changes to be made, you can make them in a timely manner.
Standard short-term health insurance plans can help you fill a gap in coverage from one month to just under a year until you can review your health care options. Staying abreast of the details of your health coverage policies can keep your finances in order and also provide you with the knowledge to avoid any surprises or unexpected lapse in coverage because you failed to update your life-changing event information.
For more information on this or other financial topics please email me at Charlestien.firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 662-624-5776.
Until next week — stay financially fit!
Charlestien Harris is a financial contributor to DeSoto County News. She is a financial expert with Southern Bancorp Community Partners whose articles are seen in a number of publications around the region. You’ll be seeing her columns weekly on the DeSoto County News website and our social media channels.