If you have ever purchased health insurance, you will be familiar with the concept of open enrollment. Open enrollment is a set period every year, usually towards the end of the year, when you select your health insurance coverage for the coming year. Once you have selected your insurance plan and the open enrollment period has closed, you are unable to change your coverage or purchase a plan until the next open enrollment.
There is an exception to enrolling outside the open enrollment period, and that occurs if you experience a qualifying life event or QLE. A QLE is a change in your situation that makes you eligible to enroll in or change your benefits outside of the annual open enrollment period. Usually, you have 60 days from the date when your QLE occurs to complete any changes to your insurance plan or to buy a new one, if necessary. Situations where someone new has joined your family and needs coverage, or you lose health coverage you had elsewhere are common examples of QLE. If you experience any significant life changes or loss of health coverage, you have likely gone through a QLE.
A question that often arises when discussing QLEs is whether or not having a spouse change jobs is considered a QLE. While it does depend on the scenario, there is a good chance it does. As mentioned above loss of health coverage is seen as a QLE. If your spouse’s employer was providing your health insurance and your spouse loses that coverage by leaving the job (whether voluntarily or not) it would be considered a QLE. At that point, you would have the ability to participate in a special enrollment period, which would allow you to elect coverage for you and your family outside of the open enrollment period.
If your spouse changed jobs and it did not initiate a loss of health insurance, but there are other circumstances you think might be considered a QLE, you can crosscheck it with the extensive list of QLEs as defined by the government. It is also an excellent resource if there are any other circumstances that you think may be QLEs but are not sure. If you think you have experienced a QLE, it is best to check because if you miss the special enrollment period, the next open enrollment period could still be a year away and you want to make sure that you have the coverage that you need.