If your family grows during the year, you’re eligible for a special enrollment period. There are several situations that can trigger the SEP in this case.
If you get married, you have the opportunity to add your spouse to your plan, or shop for a new plan. You have 60 days to enroll, and the effective date will be the first of the month following the plan selection. This is in contrast to the normal effective date rules, which – in most states – require that enrollments be completed by the 15th of the month in order to have coverage effective the first of the following month.
So if you get married on June 5 and enroll in a new health plan on June 30, your coverage will be effective on July 1. Because of the flexibility with effective dates, it may be beneficial for newlyweds to utilize their special enrollment period even if they get married during open enrollment.
For example, a couple who gets married on November 26 and enrolls in a new health plan on November 28 can get a December 1 effective date if they utilize their special enrollment period. Since open enrollment would be ongoing at that point in the year, they’d also have the option of enrolling without a special enrollment period, but their effective date would be January 1.
Birth, adoption, or placement for foster care or adoption
If you gain a dependent or become a dependent as a result of a birth or adoption, the whole family is eligible for a special enrollment period. You can opt to simply add the new dependent to your existing health plan, or you can enroll the family in a new health plan. This is true even if you were uninsured at the time of the birth/adoption.
If a child is placed with you for foster care or adoption, the date that you become responsible for the child’s care is the qualifying event, even if an adoption or foster agreement is pending and has not yet been finalized.
The special enrollment period runs for 60 days following the birth, adoption, or placement for foster care/adoption. The coverage effective date is typically backdated to the date of the birth/adoption/placement, but at the enrollee’s request, the exchange can allow for an effective date of the first of the month after the birth, adoption, or placement for foster care/adoption.
In New York, pregnancy itself is a qualifying event, so pregnant women have the opportunity to enroll in a health plan before the baby is born. They also continue to have a special enrollment period when the baby is born, as is the case in other states.
In the rest of the country, the special enrollment period is only triggered by the birth, not by the pregnancy. But it’s important to note that pregnant women qualify for Medicaid (and in some states, CHIP) with higher household income than the normal guidelines for adults. So even if you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for Medicaid, you might find that you do if you’re pregnant. A pregnant woman is also counted as two people for Medicaid eligibility determination purposes, which helps to increase access to coverage for women whose income would otherwise be too high to qualify for Medicaid. And Medicaid enrollment runs year-round, so if you’re uninsured and pregnant, check to see if you might be able to enroll in Medicaid to have coverage during your pregnancy.
Child support order
In 2015, HHS added child support orders to the list of qualifying events under the category of gaining or becoming a dependent. The court order can be a qualified medical child support order or other order from a state or federal court that requires the dependent to be covered under a health plan.
The special enrollment period continues for 60 days following the court order. Coverage is typically backdated to the date of the court order, but at the enrollee’s request, the exchange can allow for normal effective date rules. (In most states, enrollments completed by the 15th of the month will have coverage effective the first of the following month.)