Looking to join a group health insurance plan? See how you can, why you might not be able to, and alternative options.
Are you wondering what your options are for health insurance, but not sure where to start? Perhaps your main question is whether or not you can join a group health insurance plan, because you’ve heard this might be more affordable than buying an individual or family plan on your own.
Let’s look into some options for someone who is wondering if they can join a group health insurance plan:
Join a group health insurance plan if your employer offers it
If you work full-time for an employer (small or large) that offers group health insurance options, then you should be able to join a group health insurance plan through that employer. Some exceptions to this:
- If you’ve already been working there for some time, and it is not Open Enrollment Period. Usually when you get hired somewhere, you should have your health benefits explained to you, and given a certain amount of time to opt into your plan. If you chose not to join that group health insurance plan within the amount of time set by your employer, then you’ll have to wait until the annual Open Enrollment period to opt in. If you’re confused about your options, talk to your HR department or supervisor to understand more about how group health insurance benefits work at your company.
- If you are a contracted employee. Sometimes it’s hard to understand exactly how employment works. If you don’t work enough hours to be a full-time employee, or were hired as a contracted employee, there’s a chance you won’t have the opportunity to be covered under health benefits offered by your employer. This is a huge issue with the rise of the gig economy, since many of these workers are not considered “employees” even if they work more hours than they would need to be considered a full-time employee. Make sure you understand what kind of employee you are, or if you’re considered an employee at all.
- You work for a small business that isn’t required to offer group health insurance. If you are employed by a small business owner, they might not be required to offer health insurance by law. Usually, if a small business has less than 50 full-time employees, they are not legally required to offer group health insurance to employees. Don’t expect this to be the case with all small business owners–your employer still has the option to offer group health insurance, even if they have only one employee.
What to do if you can’t join a group health insurance plan
Although there are many perks to joining a group health insurance plan, it’s not an option for everyone. If you’re unable to join an existing group health insurance plan, there are still plenty of great health insurance options out there that you can choose from:
- Individual health insurance. eHealth has a wide variety of individual and family health insurance plans, You can choose from an Obamacare (ACA) plan, which will be the same as what you’ll find on the government health insurance Marketplace. If you’re not expecting to qualify for a government subsidy, you might also want to look into a health plan that is not associated with the Affordable Care Act.
- Short term health insurance. If you’re looking for an affordable way to get some coverage, short term health insurance is a good option. You won’t be getting as many benefits or as much extensive coverage as you would with more traditional individual plans, but you’ll be protected against outrageous medical bills in the case of a serious illness or injury.
- Medical insurance packages. Another alternative to traditional group health insurance is packaged medical insurance. This kind of coverage combines several different products into a single bundle. Read more about this convenient product here.
- Critical Illness and Accident insurance. This is another option for coverage that will offer less benefits, but save you money. A critical illness insurance plan pays a cash amount to you directly, in the event you’re diagnosed with a critical illness that’s covered by the plan. If you’re also concerned about getting in a serious accident and want to protect yourself from those medical bills, you can purchase an Accident insurance plan.
- Join an association health plan. If you are apart of a professional organization, industry group, trade organization, or state or local chamber of commerce, you may have the opportunity to join an Association Health Plan (AHP). Make sure to read up on these associations, because there is some potential risk involved with joining an AHP that might not be legitimate.
If you’re a small business owner – you can enroll in and purchase a group health plan
If you are a small business owner, you can enroll in a group health insurance plan at any time of the year! There is no open enrollment period for small businesses that you need to wait for. As long as you are a legitimate business and have 1 employee besides yourself (and he/she is not a spouse), then you’re likely eligible to enroll in a small business health insurance plan. If you want to know more about enrolling in and joining a group health insurance plan as a small business owner, you can watch our instructional video below: