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Ask the Health Insurance Expert

I was just hired at a new job. I thought my health benefits would start right away, but I was told I have to wait to be eligible. Is that allowed?

Yes, it’s not only allowed but is commonplace for employers to require new employees to sit out a waiting period before becoming eligible for health insurance benefits.

Section 2708 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act lets a group health plan or health insurance issuer to apply a waiting period of up to, but not to exceed, 90 days.  An employer cannot substitute a three-month period in lieu of the 90-day period.

This means by at most on the 91st day you should have coverage.  All calendar days are counted, including holidays and weekends.  Your health insurance plan can kick in earlier than 90 days, just not later.

For instance, if your employer wants to use the first day of the month or the first day of your payroll period as the enrollment date, it could apply a shorter waiting period. 

Since waiting period time period will be 90 days or less, you’ll need to ask your benefits administrator at work to tell you the start date.

Last updated: Jun. 18, 2014
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