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Getting health insurance coverage is an important part of starting a new job. Most of the time, health insurance will begin on the first day, especially for full-time employees. However, there may be a waiting period of up to 90 days before coverage starts. This waiting period can vary from company to company, so it is important to ask your employer beforehand.

Because health insurance procedures vary for each employer, you should talk to your benefits administrator to determine when your coverage starts.

When do health insurance benefits start?

While health insurance can start immediately after you sign up for a plan, this isn’t the case for every employer. In some instances, there may be a waiting period before your coverage begins. 

Employers decide when health insurance benefits begin for new employees. Some jobs may start benefits immediately, while health insurance from other employers may not kick in after a month or two. However, your health coverage will always begin within 90 days

It is important to check with your insurer to find out exactly when your health insurance coverage will begin.

Why do employers have a waiting period for benefits?

The waiting period in a health insurance plan is the amount of time you have to wait before you can start using your insurance benefits. You cannot file a claim during this time. Some employers have a waiting period for new employees, but there are limits on how long this period can last.

While the waiting period may be inconvenient, it serves an important purpose in preventing unethical practices and ensuring that everyone covered by health insurance has access to quality care.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) says employers must offer their employees health insurance within 90 days of their first day of work. Section 2708 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act of the Affordable Care Act lets a group health plan or health insurance issuer apply a waiting period of up to, but not to exceed, 90 days before coverage kicks in. 

Why do I have to wait 90 days for benefits?

Some employers will set the waiting period for benefits to 90 days to ensure that their employees are not misusing the policy or filing immediate claims. In short, your health insurance plan can kick in earlier than 90 days, just not later.

For instance, your employer can start providing health insurance coverage on the first day of the month or the first day of your payroll period as the enrollment date.

What health benefits are employers required to offer to their employees?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that employers with 50 or more full-time employees offer health insurance coverage to their employees. This coverage also extends to their employee’s dependents and children (up to age 26). Stepchildren and foster children are not included in this category.

If you are utilizing employer-sponsored coverage, you will likely have a choice of several health insurance plans from your employer. Each plan has pros and cons, depending on what you need and how much it will cost you. 

  • PPO: A PPO health insurance plan offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing health care providers. You don’t have to worry about being limited to in-network providers for medical care.
  • HMO: Your insurance company is the primary healthcare provider in an HMO plan. It only covers medical care that is provided by doctors and other health care providers who are under contract with the HMO and does not provide out-of-network care. 
  • HDHP: An HDHP is a high deductible health insurance plan that offers similar benefits to a PPO plan. You will have to pay more out-of-pocket medical expenses before your insurance company starts paying for your medical costs.

Here’s what each of these health plans has in common:

Premiums

Premiums are payments you make to your health insurer every month to keep your policy active. The monthly premiums for health insurance plans vary depending on the plan you choose, how much your employer pays and your deductible amount. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums are often tax-deductible, so you don’t have to pay taxes on the premiums. In most cases, employers deduct the payment from your paycheck as a pre-tax deduction.

Deductibles

A deductible is an amount you must pay for healthcare costs before your health insurance plan begins to cover costs. Generally, HMO plans have lower premiums and a low deductible or no deductible at all. In most PPO and HDHP plans, you have to pay a deductible. 

What to do if your employer does not offer health insurance

Many people rely on their employers for health insurance. However, if you leave your job or get terminated, you may not have access to the healthcare benefits they provided. But you still have options — if you leave a job or are terminated, you are eligible for a special-enrollment period that allows you to purchase health insurance coverage outside of the open enrollment period.

Here are your health insurance options if your new employer does not offer coverage:

  • COBRA: If you enroll in COBRA, you can continue to use the health insurance benefits from your old employer, even if you are no longer employed with that company. The catch is that you will have to pay for the full cost of the premiums, which can be expensive.
  • Short-term health insurance plan: Short-term health insurance plans are temporary plans that last for a short period, usually between one and 12 months. These plans fill in the gaps in your regular health insurance coverage and provide coverage if you lose your job, have a gap in your employer-sponsored health insurance, or are between jobs.

The specifics of your health insurance plan will vary depending on your employer — including when your coverage becomes active. To make sure you’re fully covered, talk to your benefits administrator. If your new employer doesn’t offer coverage, you can also explore other healthcare options such as COBRA or a short-term health plan. 

Penny Gusner contributed to this article.

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Shivani Gite
Contributing Writer

 
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Shivani Gite is a personal finance and insurance writer with a degree in journalism and mass communication. She is passionate about making insurance topics easy to understand for people and helping them make better financial decisions.

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