If your approach to benefits has been “set it and forget it,” you may be missing out on opportunities to make changes when you experience qualifying life events—and there are more than you think.
Outside of Open Enrollment, you need to experience a “qualifying life event” to change most of your benefits elections, but we’re not just talking about marriage or having a baby. Here are some common life events that may prompt you to make benefits changes.
If your spouse or domestic partner loses a job and benefits, or gets a new job with benefits, or if your dependent child under age 26 gains or loses benefits, you can add or drop coverage within 31 days of the event. You can make the changes by logging into My Benefits.
If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), your spouse cannot also elect a health care Flexible Spending Account (FSA) from his or her employer.
You can continue to use your HSAs to pay for qualified medical expenses of your spouse or dependents, even if they are not covered by your health insurance. (This is not the same for registered domestic partners; IRS regulations prohibit you from using your HSA to pay for their qualified medical expenses.)
You may not be thinking about qualifying life events as you load the moving van, but you should. Eligibility to enroll in Kaiser or Stanford Healthcare Alliance is based on your home address ZIP code. This means if you are leaving an eligible ZIP code, you may have to choose a new health plan. Update your address and contact information in StanfordYou; if your address update results in you losing eligibility for either Kaiser or SHCA, you will receive an e-mail notification.
Moving is also a good time to revisit voluntary benefits such as home and auto insurance.
You should also review your commute with Parking & Transportation Services because you may have new biking, carpooling or transit options.
If your job changes from part-time (50% to 74%) to full-time (75% to 100%), that is a qualifying life event. You have 31 days from the effective date to elect benefits through My Benefits.
If your job changes from full-time to part-time below 50% and you are losing coverage, even if you are not terminating your employment, you should review When Employment Ends to read what happens to all of your benefits.
If you are changing jobs at the university, (moving from one benefits-eligible position to another) you don’t have to do anything. Your benefits travel with you.
If you go on an unpaid leave of absence, you are allowed to drop your benefits within 31 days by logging into My Benefits. When you return from leave, you are allowed to reinstate your coverage. Read more about your benefits on leave.
If you remain enrolled in your benefits during your leave (so long as it is not a personal leave), you’ll continue to receive the same university contribution to your health and life benefits as when you were actively working. However, because you won’t be receiving a Stanford paycheck, you will be billed for your share of the benefits to pay with after-tax dollars.
A good rule of thumb is that any time someone enters or leaves your life, you should revisit your health and life benefits. If you get married, divorced or legally separated, establish or dissolve a registered domestic partnership, have a baby or adopt a child, you might want to read more about changing your health benefits and updating your beneficiaries. These are all qualifying life events, but you can’t process a future event, so be prepared to make your changes and submit supporting documentation within 31 days of the event.
You may also want to read about Spousal Rights to retirement account benefits, especially if you are getting divorced.