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Q: How Long Is A Health Insurance Plan Year?

Asked by Anonymous on April 16, 2018

Hal Levy April 16, 2018

Health insurance and Medicare plans that you buy on your own usually run on a calendar year schedule – January 1 to December 31. That’s all 365 days.

This is helpful to know when you’re figuring out how much you’ve spent towards your deductible or your out-of-pocket maximum. However, plans don’t have to last for 365 days if you bought them in the middle of the year.

Health insurance and Medicare plans generally make changes to covered benefits, deductibles, co-payments, and monthly premiums at the start of each calendar year.

Keeping and Leaving Health Insurance: When you buy a health insurance plan at the end of the year, make sure that you’re signing up for the correct year. For instance, plans for 2019 will be available at the end of 2018. But even if you purchase a 2019 plan in 2018, that plan won’t start until January 1.

You can also join new health insurance plans each year. Since 2014, insurance companies must cover you if you’re sick, and they can’t charge you extra for being sick.

You can sign up to have your plan renew automatically each year, although doing so will put you at risk of higher costs. You may also be able to cancel your plan before it expires if you don’t like it.

When Does My Health Insurance Plan End? Technically, your health insurance continues each year if you decide to remain on your plan. Health plans can last for multiple years even if they look different from year to year. For instance, your member ID may remain the same each year.

If You Got Health Insurance in the Middle of the Year: Your plan’s year will still end on December 31. Since you pay for health insurance each month instead of a once per year payment, your cost to stay on the plan will be the same.

However, your plan’s benefits, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums will be the same as if you had bought your health insurance plan at the beginning of the year. This means that you’ll have less time to use the benefits of your plan. For example, instead of having 12 months to reach a $1,000 deductible, your deductible will reset at the beginning of the new year.

If You Got Health Insurance From Your Employer: If you got health insurance through your workplace, your plan year may be on a different schedule. The plan will not be able to kick you off as an individual, although your employer can change health insurance companies, or you can ask to leave the plan. Changes to employer-sponsored plans will usually take effect on January 1.

If You’re Leaving Your Employer’s Health Plan: You can continue on your employer’s health plan (or your spouse’s health plan, if you’re no longer eligible) using an option called COBRA. With COBRA, you’ll be able to continue the plan on your own for up to 36 months. However, you’ll have to pay the full cost of the plan.

If you’re dealing with medical issues, this expensive option may be worth it. However, most people leaving employer-sponsored insurance try to buy new health insurance coverage on their own (which you can do any time that you lose previous coverage).

What About Temporary Health Insurance? Also known as short-term health insurance plans, these policies can start any time but only last for a maximum of 90 days. Your ability to renew short-term coverage depends on your health status and your state. These plans cover healthy people in case of emergencies, or a break in their traditional “major medical” health insurance coverage. Temporary health insurance plans do not count as health insurance for Obamacare tax purposes.

What About My Medicare Supplement, Part C, or Part D Plan? Medicare plan years generally keep to the same schedule as health insurance plans for people under the age of 65. However, the guidelines for enrollment and plan renewal are different, depending on what coverage you have. Learn more on our Medicare info webpages.

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