A New Zip Code Could Mean New Insurance Coverage for Your Family

by Team eLocal
A person points their finger at a glowing laptop computer screen displaying the United States Postal Service online change of address form, laptop screen, computer screen, finger, pointing, U.S. Post Office, change of address, ZIP code, ZIP

Moving house is an exciting but busy time. Between hiring home movers, paying solicitor fees and arranging home inspections, there’s almost no time to think about anything else.

But one thing you’ll want to put on your house-moving checklist is figuring out what your health insurance will look like in your new locale. Ensuring you maintain your health insurance coverage is essential, but moving across state lines may complicate the situation.

Do I Need to Change Health Insurance When I Move Within the Same State?

Whether you need to change your health insurance coverage when you move depends on whether you're staying in the same state. Generally, in-state moves don't require a change of health insurance. However, it's worth checking which clinics are part of your insurer's network in your new area if you're moving too far to stay with your current doctor.

Your insurer's network is a list of providers accepting your insurance plan. In-network clinics agree to provide services for a specified amount agreed upon by your insurance company, so seeing an out-of-network doctor is usually more expensive. It could be worth changing your health insurance if you're unhappy with the in-network options in your new area.

Contact your health insurance company if you plan to keep the same insurance plan after your move. It's essential to inform the company of your change of address, so you continue to receive correspondence relating to your coverage.

Can I Transfer Health Insurance to Another State?

Generally, you can't transfer your existing plan to a different state. Therefore, moving to another state means you'll need to change your health insurance.

However, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. You can keep your existing health insurance coverage if you have employer-sponsored health insurance and continue working for the same employer after your move. You may also be able to temporarily retain your current employer-sponsored insurance under COBRA continuation of coverage rules, even if you change jobs.

COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) lets members of an employer-sponsored group health care plan keep their coverage for a limited period if they lose their right to benefits in certain situations. Moving jobs qualifies you for temporary continuation of health coverage, as long as the employer sponsoring the plan employs 20 or more people. However, it's an expensive option because you could have to pay the entire premium to keep your coverage.

How Do I Maintain My Health Insurance When I Accept a Job in a Different State?

It's crucial to obtain new health care insurance as soon as you move. Generally, this isn't an issue if you plan to remain at home or are self-employed because you can simply purchase a new Affordable Care Act marketplace policy.

Things become more difficult when you have new employment lined up because your new employer-sponsored insurance policy will likely have a waiting period. Waiting periods differ between plans and prevent you from joining your employer's insurance program for a specified period.

For example, say your waiting period lasts for around 30 days. You will be uninsured for the first 30 days following your change of address. Remaining uninsured for even a short period is risky because you could end up paying significant medical bills if you fall ill or suffer an injury.

A potential solution to this issue is purchasing short-term health insurance from a private insurance company. These plans are usually affordable and offer short-term protection while you wait to become eligible for your employer's insurance program. Short-term health insurance usually covers emergency care, making it a significantly safer option than going without insurance. It could also be a suitable choice if you want to take your time searching for a new long-term insurer.

However, short-term health insurance doesn't always offer the same essential benefits covered by a plan purchased through the ACA marketplace. Therefore, it's important to check the list of benefits to ensure your plan provides adequate coverage before committing.

How Do I Change My Marketplace Insurance Plan?

If you're moving within your current state, you'll usually need to wait for the open enrollment period to change your Marketplace plan. The open enrollment period for 2023 begins on Nov. 1, 2022, and ends Jan. 15, 2023.

The rules for changing your Marketplace plan are different if you move to a new state. If you don't intend to sign up for health insurance through your employer, you can purchase a policy through the ACA Marketplace regardless of when you move. That's because moving to a different state qualifies you for the special enrollment period. Other circumstances (“qualifying life events”) that could qualify you for the special enrollment period include:

  • Having a child
  • Getting married
  • Losing your existing employer-sponsored health care insurance

Eligibility for the special enrollment period lets you purchase a new plan or change health insurance providers as soon as you move. How to apply depends on the rules in your state. Some states require you to apply via HealthCare.gov. Otherwise, you'll need to apply through the state's website. You should contact the Marketplace as soon as you move to ensure continuity of coverage.

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