What to Do When You Miss Benefits Open Enrollment

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If you get your health benefits through your job, or if you purchase your own separate health care, there will typically be an open enrollment period annually. During this open enrollment period, health care recipients can opt in or out of plans, or make changes to the plan they currently have. Rates are reassessed during this period, and health plan prices are often altered.

Typically, this open enrollment period is the only period of time throughout the year where changes can be made to individual plans.

Extremely conscious individuals will often be well aware of when their open enrollment period is, and re-assess their plan during that time. However, it is possible for an individual to forget about, or miss their open enrollment period. Personal issues, or work issues, such as traveling or overtime work, could certainly cause an individual to forget about their health care plan for a period of time. Thus, what to do if the enrollment period is missed has become a common question.

Question: I Missed My Job-Based Benefits Open Enrollment Period. What Can I Do?

Answer: If you get your health benefits through your job, you'll typically have an annual open enrollment period. The open enrollment period typically occurs sometime in the fall, but not always, as it may vary. Your company should notify you about your open enrollment period. Contact your Human Resources department if you are unsure or seek further information about your company’s health care plans and policies.

There is some bad news however. If you miss your company's open enrollment period for health insurance benefits, you may be out of luck. If you have automatic renewal, you will automatically re-up with the same plan you had last year.

Special Enrollment Period

If not, if you miss open enrollment, you may very well be without health insurance, unless you have recently experienced a significant, life-changing event that would trigger a special enrollment period.

A special enrollment period could be triggered if you are covered on someone else's plan and lose that coverage. For example, if you are covered on your spouse's plan, but your spouse loses her job or you become divorced, this would trigger a special enrollment period that would allow you to enroll in your company's health plan right away. Additionally, if you marry, have a child, or adopt a child, you could enroll your dependents right away in a special enrollment period.

If nothing has happened to trigger a special enrollment period, you will most likely have to wait until the next open enrollment period to sign up for health benefits. While you still cannot be denied coverage due to your health status, as a late enrollee, you could be subject to a longer pre-existing condition exclusion period.

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