Flex-Ed: Mistakes during open enrollment - can you change elections?
Mistakes happen -- and it happens more than it probably should when people are choosing health insurance. Between having multiple options, confusing plan descriptions, debating voluntary benefits and a tight open enrollment deadlines, it's pretty easy to see how things might get confused.
You could have misread a question, be forced to rush through the process, or even miscalculated how much money would be coming out of your paycheck every week. Whatever the case, if you made a mistake during open enrollment, you're probably wondering if there's a way to make changes to your elections later on in the year.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but no, once you make your open enrollment elections, you don't have the option to change them later in the year unless you experience a qualifying life event. (Or in the event of very rare circumstances, such as a legitimate error in which your administrator may or may not be able to allow you to fix)
Your employer is not legally obligated to allow you to make changes to your elections after the open enrollment period has ended. In fact, there's a good chance that the terms of your employer's benefit plan don't allow any exceptions or changes for employees who make mistakes or miss the open enrollment period altogether.
Qualifying life events change that answer...
After open enrollment ends, you can only make changes to your elections if you've experienced a qualifying life event. The IRS and FSA administrators understand that life changes and that you may need to make adjustments to your elections to accommodate for those changes.
Common qualifying life events include:
- Changes in marital status - Getting married, divorced, separated, or if your spouse passes away.
- Changes in number of dependents - if you have a child, adopt a child, or if a child passes away.
- Changes in dependent status - children can age out of dependent status or become eligible for dependent status during the year.
- Changes in employment - this can mean starting a new job, quitting, or a transition from part-time to full-time work status.
- COBRA - If you lose your job and elect to continue receiving benefits from your employer.
- Relocation - Moving won't always affect your eligibility, but sometimes moving to a new home address or a new work site can, especially if it's in a new state with different regulations.
Not all plans allow for mid-year changes, but you'll find that most do. If you experience one of these life events, you'll want to get in touch with your FSA administrator within 30 days of the event to find out if you are eligible to make changes to your plan.
What else can I do?
When it comes to your open enrollment elections, the best thing you can do is take your time and be thorough to minimize the chance of making mistakes. Don't leave your elections for the last minute as that can make you rush the process and leave you more susceptible to mistakes.
If you're married, discuss your elections with your spouse to ensure that the whole family is on the same page for the upcoming benefit year.
And if you have any questions or are uncertain about anything in the process, contact your HR department - they'll help you navigate the open enrollment steps and clarify anything you don't understand. Many employers even offer benefits education during open enrollment to help employees understand their options and make informed decisions.
Eligible everyday necessities
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