Erin Steiner is a regular contributor to WeddingChaplain.ca and a variety of other websites. She writes primarily about current events, social issues and cultural topics and is always looking for new and fun projects.
Marriage ceremonies are just the beginning. When you join your life to another person’s, there are lots of huge decisions you are going to have to make. Are you going to join your finances or keep separate accounts? Are you going to find a new home, or will one of you move in with the other? Should you combine your insurance plans into a family plan or keep them separate?
Welcome to a new life!
For some types of insurance, like car insurance, the decision isn’t usually that difficult. If you’re both relatively safe drivers with clean records, switching to a family auto insurance plan will save you money and can be done (and undone) relatively quickly. With other types of insurance, though, like health insurance, things are a little more complicated.
When you are looking into the different marriage services that are available – photography, catering, etc. – it’s good to look into financial planning services as well. A qualified financial planner can help you set up your ideal financial situation (even if you decide to keep your money separated). Your financial advisor can also take a look at your health insurance plans and help you decide whether or not you should both be on the same plan or if keeping your independent individual plans is a better idea.
It is important to not procrastinate on figuring out your health insurance situation. As the article “Health Insurance and Marriage” points out: Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, you only have 30 days from the date of your marriage ceremonies to tell your insurance provider if you want to make changes to your policy (like adding your spouse or canceling the policy to join your spouse’s coverage). It’s a good idea, then, to talk about this before you start hiring people to help you with your marriage services and maybe even before you set a date. That way, you don’t have to worry about missing that deadline.
When you sit down to talk, here are the things you need to look at:
1. The Policies Themselves
What’s covered? What isn’t? If the policy was set up before 2014, when the majority of the Affordable Health Care Act took effect, will the policy deny the new spouse’s coverage because of pre-existing conditions?
2. The Money Stuff
Which plan has the better co-pay? Which policy has the better/more realistic deductible? Will one policy super-inflate the cost of the policy once a spouse (and all of their health issues) are added to it? Which policy is more affordable overall? Would it actually be cheaper for you to remain independently insured?
3. The Doctor Pool
Will one of you have to switch primary care physicians to join the other’s plan? If neither of you is particularly attached to your doctors, this won’t really be an issue. If you or your spouse has been seeing the same doctor for years, though, it is important to respect that trust level and history. If you (or your spouse) will be forced to work with someone new, effectively starting all over again, it might be better to keep your independent plans for now.
These are just three of the things that you need to consider when figuring out what to do about your health insurance.
Two policies become one – kind of like what happens when you get married!
It’s also worth noting that, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many plans are changing. Your best option might not be having one spouse drop his or her insurance plan to join yours (or vice versa). Your best option might be shopping for a completely new policy that will cover you both and be more affordable for the two of you as a family unit.
If you have questions about how to go about making changes to your insurance plan, don’t hesitate to call your plan’s provider or one of your state’s health market representatives. They, along with your financial advisor, can help you work through the details and figure out which options are best for you.