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I’m getting married. What should I do about health insurance?

Reader Q+A

I'm getting married this month and wondering what to do about health insurance. My wife and I both work, but her company doesn't provide health insurance and mine does. She's currently getting a really cheap plan for only $50 per month.Can we keep our health plans or should we try to be on the same plan? Does it matter?

First of all, congratulations! Marriage is very exciting. Figuring out health insurance typically is not. 

Generally speaking, you can only change your health plan during open enrollment, which runs from November 15 through February 15 this year. However, marriage is considered a qualifying event, which means you can change your health plan 30 days after you tie the knot. 

You can choose to stay on separate health plans after marriage. However, in your case, your employer’s plan disqualifies your wife from receiving a subsidy. If her monthly cost is only $50, we'd guess that she is receiving this help from the government to offset the cost of health insurance.

Let's discuss five different health plan options you (and anyone getting married trying to figure out health insurance) should compare after tying the knot. Remember, you have 30 to 60 days after your wedding to make a change.

1. Add your spouse to your company's group health plan. 

This might be your best option. Ask HR or the person who handles your health plan how much employee + spouse coverage is. Sometimes organizations cover a large percentage of dependent coverage and other times they don't cover much at all. You'll want to figure out the cost and then investigate if this health plan is a good fit your wife's needs.

How will you know if it fits her needs? Well, start with networks. If she has a favorite doctor or hospital, she'll want to make sure her favorite providers are in-network. Then, if she takes prescription medication, see how much that will cost per month on the plan. Typically figuring out those two pieces will give you both a good idea of whether or not a health plan is best. 

2. Find a plan on the individual market for both of you to join.

Because your employer offers health insurance, you won't qualify for a subsidy, but that doesn't mean you can't purchase a marketplace plan or a plan on the individual market. In fact, it would behoove you to investigate different options to see if you can get a better rate or a better plan. Some couples really like being on the same plan and having expenses count toward one family deductible. 

3. Look for a new marketplace plan for your spouse. 

Since your wife will no longer be eligible for a subsidy, she'll want to look into all her marketplace options. She may want to opt for a cheaper plan to make up for the extra money she'll be spending without the subsidy help. 

4. Look for a plan on the individual market for your spouse. 

Healthcare.gov isn't the only place to purchase a health plan. You can also purchase coverage on the individual market (typically through a broker). You'll want to compare marketplace and non-marketplace health plans before making a decision. 

5. Have your spouse update her subsidy information and keep everything the same. 

You may be a in a great spot with your current coverage and want to keep everything the same. If this is the case, it's important to have her update her subsidy eligibility on Healthcare.gov. If she doesn’t update her account, she will be faced with paying back the subsidy for the months after the wedding. 

Best of luck on your upcoming marriage. Be sure to figure out the best health strategy within 30 days of tying the knot. Otherwise, you both will have to keep the same health plan. 

Health insurance can be confusing and there is a lot of conflicting information available. Our mission is to be your most trusted advisor when you navigate these difficult scenarios. We'd love to answer your questions, so please leave a question in the comments below or email us at marketing@bernardhealth.com

We look forward to hearing from you! And as our teachers told us, there are no stupid questions. 

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