3 Important Insurance Deadlines You Should Know Before Changing Your Medical Coverage

When it comes to medical coverage, there is no “one size fits all” plan.

Medical insurers offer different plans to meet different family sizes, budgets, and health needs.

If your medical coverage needs have recently changed, you may be considering changing your plans to better meet your current situation.

Before you make changes to your plan, however, it’s important to be aware of these 3 Important Insurance Deadlines You Should Know Before Changing Your Medical Coverage.

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ANNUAL OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD

The annual open enrollment period is the window of time when you can add or change your medical insurance selections each year.

Unless you have a qualifying event (see “Special Enrollment Period” below for more information), the only time you can add or change your medical insurance elections is during the annual open enrollment period.

The open enrollment start date for 2021 is November 1st, 2020, and the open enrollment period lasts for 45 days.

What happens if I miss this insurance deadline?

If you miss the annual open enrollment period, you must continue with your current medical coverage until you either have a qualifying life event or reach the next annual open enrollment period.

Both your coverage levels and the dependents covered on your plan will carry over if you do not change your elections within the open enrollment window.

SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD DEADLINE

If you have a qualifying life event, you have a limited window in which to change your medical insurance elections to meet the needs of your new situation. Examples of qualifying life events include:

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Increases or decreases in family size
  • Losing your employer-sponsored coverage due to job loss or reduction in hours
  • Losing eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid
  • Moving to a new zip code or county

Once you have a qualifying life event, you will have 30 to 60 days to make any changes in your medical coverage, depending on the event.

Since the deadlines vary by event and begin from the first date the event occurred, it is important to plan in advance and notify your insurance agent right away if you need to make any changes to your health insurance program.

What happens if I miss this insurance deadline?

If you miss the special enrollment period deadline, you must continue with the same coverage levels and the same dependents that were in place before the qualifying life event until the next annual open enrollment period.

If you have a baby or adopt a child, missing this important deadline can mean your child will not have any medical coverage until the calendar year following the next open enrollment period.

Or if you lose coverage through your employer and miss the special enrollment period deadline, it could mean your entire family is without coverage until you can register for new elections during the next annual open enrollment.

INITIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR MEDICARE

Once you turn 65, you are eligible to apply for Medicare, which is a federally sponsored health insurance program for people age 65 or older.

Applying for Medicare can be confusing and time-consuming, so it is important to be aware of your enrollment eligibility window.

For most senior citizens, the initial enrollment period for Medicare is seven months long and runs from three months before the month you turn 65 to three months after the month you turn 65.

What happens if I miss this insurance deadline?

If you miss the initial enrollment period for Medicare, there are a few additional opportunities to apply for Medicare.

There are special enrollment periods for individuals who meet certain criteria, and there is a Medicare Open Enrollment Period that runs from January 1st – March 31st each year, but your coverage when enrolling during this period won’t begin until July 1st.

Additionally, missing your initial enrollment period for Medicare can cost you late fees and penalties when you do apply, so it’s best to stay on top of your deadlines and apply as soon as you become eligible.

STAY ON TOP OF IMPORTANT DEADLINES

When life changes occur, making necessary adjustments your medical coverage is important.

Right-sizing your insurance plan helps you avoid overpaying for coverage you no longer need or getting stuck with excessive out-of-pocket medical expenses while you are under-insured.

Missing enrollment deadlines can cause avoidable financial burdens, so it’s important to stay on top of insurance deadlines and make any adjustments as soon as you become eligible – make sure you understand these 3 Important Insurance Deadlines You Should Know Before Changing Your Medical Coverage.

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