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Ask the Health Insurance Expert

My daughter now has health insurance of her own through a full-time job. When I tried to remove her from my health plan, my employer told me that I can’t remove her until the next open enrollment period because it has been more than 31 days since she became insured at her new job. I’m forced to continue to pay over $200 a month in premiums until then. Is this right and legal?

Yes, this is standard practice.

Once you make your health insurance choices during your annual open enrollment period at work  -- including naming the dependents for the plan -- they are locked in until the next year’s open enrollment period.  The exception is if you experience a qualifying life event.

Major life events that will allow you to “redo” your job-based health insurance plan and make certain benefit changes typically include:

  • Marriage.
  • Divorce or legal separation.
  • Gain a child through birth or adoption.
  • Loss of a child’s eligibility (reaches maximum age for coverage).
  • Death of dependent (spouse or child).
  • Loss or gain of health coverage due to a change in employment status for you, spouse or dependent.
  • Relocation by you or a dependent to an area outside of health plan service area.

The window to make changes to a job-based health plan after an eligible life event is short, usually just 30 or 31 days.  If you don’t act promptly to make changes, you indeed have to wait until the next annual enrollment period.

So when your daughter gained coverage through her own workplace, a special period opened for you to remove her from your health plan. But by waiting too long the window closed.  This means your daughter will end up with double coverage, and you’ll pay $200 plus a month for it, until your next open enrollment period. 

Read more about primary vs. secondary coverage when you have two health plans  to learn how your daughter’s health plans will work in conjunction with each other until you can remove her from your policy.

Last updated: Aug. 11, 2014
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