When can employees make mid-year election changes to their group health insurance?

May 13, 2020

Editor's Note: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notice 2020-29 provides for increased flexibility with respect to mid-year elections under a section 125 cafeteria plan during calendar year 2020 due to COVID-19. The notice applies to employer sponsored health coverage, health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs) and dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs).  

Elections for pre-tax group health insurance are generally irrevocable for the plan year under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides specific instances when an employee can make midyear election changes (or "permitted change in election events"):

  • Change in marital status.
  • Change in number of dependents.
  • Change in employment.
  • Change in dependent eligibility due to plan requirements (e.g., loss of student status, age limit reached).
  • Change in residence (e.g., employee or dependent moves out of plan service area).
  • Significant cost changes in coverage.
  • Significant curtailment of coverage.
  • Addition or improvement to benefits package option.
  • Change in coverage of spouse or dependent under another employer plan (e.g., spouse's employer had no insurance coverage before but now offers a plan).
  • Loss of certain other health coverage (e.g., plans provided by governmental or educational institutions).
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) special enrollment rights.
  • Judgments, decrees or orders.
  • Entitlement to Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Change in hours worked to less than 30 hours per week on average if the employee and covered family members enroll in another plan providing minimum essential coverage.
  • Enrollment in a marketplace exchange plan during an exchange special or open enrollment period. Employees and others covered must enroll in the exchange plan by the first day after coverage ends under the employer plan. See IRS Notice 2014-55 for details.

Please note:

  • Employers do not have to allow employees to make midyear elections changes except those under the HIPAA special enrollment rights. An employer should include in the plan documents and summary plan description which events, if any, would allow for an employee to make midyear election changes.
  • If a change in status does occur, the election changes should be consistent with that event. For example, if an employee divorces, the employee may drop coverage for the spouse but not for themselves or other covered dependents.
  • The amount of time an employee has to request a change to his or her group health coverage is defined by the employer's plan rules, often 30 or 60 days, and may not be too far removed to ensure the change is clearly consistent with the event.


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