Can You Change Your Health Plan Anytime You Want?
The simple answer is no... and yes, under certain conditions.
When You Can Choose a Health Plan
Many companies have what's known as an open enrollment period, which usually occurs during the fall. Some companies offer their employees only one plan, while other companies offer their employees a few plans to choose from. For most of us, this open enrollment period is the only time you can select a healthcare plan.
But once you make your choice, it isn't like buying a suit from a store, where you can go back and trade it in for a new one because you decide navy doesn't bring out the color of your eyes. Once you choose your health plan, that health plan covers you and your family for the next twelve months.
However, there are a few situations in which you can change health plans.
To illustrate, let's use Gary as an example. Last fall, Gary signed up for his company's health plan, and he's pretty happy with it.
But if Gary has what's known as a "qualifying event" over the next year, he can choose to change his health plan. What, Gary may ask himself, is a qualifying event?
We're glad Gary asked that question. In plain English, a qualifying event is another name for a life-changing event. For example, if Gary gets married, he can add his wife to his health plan. If Gary and his wife, Greta, have a baby, he can switch to a plan that offers better coverage for his new family.
Some other qualifying events include a change in employment status, divorce, and death. Fortunately, Gary hasn't had to deal with any of these.
Gary has demonstrated that there are certain times in which you can change your health plan. But the fact is, every year you should do your research before enrolling in a health plan. Read all your insurance company's materials and visit its Web site to discover all the benefits you're entitled to. Also, think about what your life will be like a year from now to help you select the best one. Are you planning on getting married or having a baby? Are you or your spouse thinking about changing jobs?
By planning ahead, you can avoid worrying about changing health plans.