Consider Start Dates for Health Insurance Applications

Throughout life, the need to change health insurance providers or plans may arise. For example, you may:

  • Need to add a dependent or spouse to your plan
  • Move from an employer sponsored plan to an independent plan
  • Change your policy with different care options
  • Start a new, individual health insurance plan

If you plan on making such a change, you definitely want to consider how long application approval can take.   One may (rationally) assume, “I’ll submit my application, be approved within 24 hours, and coverage will be in place.”  Unfortunately -like many things in health insurance- approval is not that fast or easy.  What’s worse is that your application has a chance of being rejected, which would leave you back at square one.

Looking at a recent health insurance application reveals that this provider only offers two start dates per month for when coverage begins.  These are the 1st and 15th of each month.  That’s it.  Whether this results from streamlining accounting/operations, approval time, or incompetence, the world may never know.   Other providers may be the same, and this is worth noting.  The goal is not to allow a gap in coverage to occur, as this creates a condition of unlimited medical liability should something awful happen.

With most things in life, it is best to prepare and apply early.  If you will require an upcoming change in coverage, it is best to apply now and begin the process.  You can always elect for the coverage to begin in the future, but if you wait until the last minute, you may temporarily go without insurance coverage.  Applying 30-60 days in advance seems to be a safe time horizon.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for making the switch:

  • Examine your situation.  What type of coverage do you need?  How much does your budget allow?  What amount of deductible are you comfortable with?  Do you prefer a PPO or HMO?
  • Begin researching how insurance plans are compared and what each term means.
  • Have your medical records handy, as you will need information on past insurance as well as any doctor’s visits.  Here is a good system for organized medical record keeping.
  • Find a broker that allows you to compare plans.  I recommend
  • Compare quotes and plan offerings, select one and begin the application process.

Hopefully -with a little foresight and planning- you can avoid the risks associated with being uninsured and your insurance transition will be smooth and painless.