Moving to a new state? You may need a new health plan too

Moving is exciting – but it can also be stressful. There’s a lot to organize. Between the packing, the purging, leaving your old home and finding a new one, it can be a busy time. As you check off the tasks on your to-do list, remember to keep your health insurance plan in mind.

“It’s really important to be on top of any changes to your health care plan when you move,” says Caitlin Donovan, senior director of the National Patient Advocate Foundation. That way, you can continue coverage without a gap – and without paying for coverage that you don’t need or can’t use.

“You want to make sure you’re comfortably covered and have the right network set up,” Donovan says. To do that, here’s what you need to know as you make the big move.

You may be able to switch plans

Your existing health plan considers an out-of-state move to be a qualifying life event. That means you’re eligible for a special enrollment period. This is a time outside of the usual open enrollment period when you can sign up for health insurance.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

Contact human resources if you have insurance through your employer

“The sooner, the better – always,” Donovan notes. This is especially true if you’re staying with the same employer. Plus, you’ll need time to decide on a new plan that fits your family’s needs if your existing health plan isn’t being offered in your new location.

Call your health insurance company too

You’ll find the number on your health insurance member ID card. An agent can walk you through the next steps and what to consider.

Enroll in a new plan if you get your insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

You need to sign up for a new plan if you move to another state.1 That means you’ll fill out a new marketplace application and update the profile on your account.

Be mindful of time, for all types of health insurance

You need to make these changes to your health insurance within 30 or 60 days of the date of your move.2 Call your benefits person or health insurance company to let them know.

Consider a short term plan

Missed that special enrollment window? You’ll have to wait until open enrollment. To bridge the gap until the next open enrollment, consider getting a short term health insurance plan, advises Donovan.

Short term medical plans can include coverage for doctor visits, urgent care visits and trips to the emergency room. They also cover hospital stays, which can be the most expensive bills. Some may cover preventive care and prescriptions. 

Another reason to sign up for a short term plan? If you’ve changed employers. Even if you signed up for a new plan within the required time period, you may have to wait 30 days or longer before the coverage starts. A short term plan can keep you protected while you wait.

As useful as short term plans can be, try to get a new plan within the special enrollment window, says Donovan. “You want full comprehensive coverage and as many patient protections as possible,” she explains.

Review your insurance needs

A move to a new state may be a great opportunity to think about what you need through a new lens.

Ask yourself some questions when thinking about medical insurance

Donovan suggests the following: 

  • What did you like and not like about your health care coverage before?
  • Is it an absolute must that the nearest hospital to your house is in your network? Or are you OK with driving farther?
  • Did you start seeing a new specialist, such as a dermatologist? If so, do you need to make that type of provider a priority in your new plan?

Consider family members

If you’re married or have a domestic partner who is on your current plan, check whether the new one provides partner benefits, says Donovan. That’s true even if you move out of state but are staying with the same employer. This could be a chance to change to a new plan that provides the benefits that are important to your family.

Figure out costs

Price is almost always important, so think about your premium. But also look at the deductible and copay or coinsurance, says Donovan.If you have family coverage and your premium becomes unaffordable, now is your chance to see if you qualify for subsidies for an ACA marketplace plan,” she notes. It’s just one way that you may be able to get help paying for health care costs.

Moving often signifies a new start that can apply to your health care too. Consider your options as you navigate the many changes to ensure you're covered. 

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