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I missed open enrollment [the 30-day deadline in the US for new employees to elect health insurance, or else be uninsured for the rest of that calendar year]. It's ultimately on me, since my company did everything well enough by the book. The short version of it all is that they were almost done being bought out when I joined, they changed insurance providers after I signed up for coverage in 2019, I misinterpreted the messages saying "hey, we're changing, the old coverage won't renew next year," and now I'm not insured. Legally speaking, the company has done no wrong, and I need to figure out my next step.

My company has said "the deadline was December 11th" when I asked them about getting insured after the fact now that I know I messed up. They've informed me that the only way I can get coverage is to have a life-changing event, such as moving somewhere that would change my coverage, getting married, having a kid, or starting a new job.

Right now, starting a new job is the most attainable item on that list. My current role is my first job in software development after about 6 years as a mechanical engineer. I've been in this role for about three months, and unfortunately it looks like I'll need to leave it in order to gain insurance. To that end, I'm going to start interviewing at several new locations. I'm sure they will ask why I wish to leave my current employer, especially after such a short time.

Is the truth the best option here? If I say, "there were some issues during open enrollment, and unfortunately I was not insured once 2020 began. My only real course of action to gain coverage is to change jobs so that I can get something" will that convey a bad message to potential employers, that they shouldn't trust me and that I will drop the ball with important details? Or is this a semi-common reason for people job-hopping as necessary?

Edit: This is only tangentially related to my question, but in case anyone was wondering: I was insured until the end of 2019. Technically, losing your insurance triggers a 60 day special enrollment period afterwards, and after discussing it with my HR, it looks like we'll be able to use this to get me enrolled after all. I feel like the responses below answered my question, but wanted to give (what appears to be) a happy ending to those interested.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Jan 8 at 14:43
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    Can you get private or government insurance for a year and then enroll next year? – MonkeyZeus Jan 8 at 16:22
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    @jamesqf I take regular medication for migraine headaches, and I'd like to enroll in therapy sessions. There is also a decently large fine in the United States if you were not insured for the year. – NegativeFriction Jan 8 at 17:56
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    Is it possible to arrange something with the company, so that you can be terminated (you quit, they lay you off, something along those lines) then immediately hire you back on, so as to reset this open enrolment period? – Alexander - Reinstate Monica Jan 8 at 19:37
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    They may not be able to cover you on their plan, but they may be able to increase your net salary sufficiently to pay for a private insurance rhis one year. Have you asked them for a one time medical stipend? – bishop Jan 9 at 3:37

12 Answers 12

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If I say, "there were some issues during open enrollment, and unfortunately I was not insured once 2020 began. My only real course of action to gain coverage is to change jobs so that I can get something" will that convey a bad message to potential employers, that they shouldn't trust me and that I will drop the ball with important details?

By stating this, you are saying that you have no interest whatsoever in the job you are applying for, and you are only doing it to be insured.

Saying that your motivation to apply to that company is to get insurance will not be seen as something positive in the eyes of the interviewer.

I suggest you try to phrase it other way, and also to look for a company that you actually like, so you have other real reasons to give regarding your motivation to change jobs.


Note: as Eric mentioned in comments, loss of coverage is a qualifying life event. See: https://www.healthcare.gov/glossary/qualifying-life-event/

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    That's a fair point. I intend to be able to pitch what I'll bring to the table as well, but I want to be able to provide a reasonable answer to "why are you leaving this job after just three months?" I don't want to bad-mouth the former employer, and I don't want to give the new employer a reason to believe that I would jump ship from them in three months as well. – NegativeFriction Jan 7 at 21:39
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    "Saying that your motivation to apply to that company is to get insurance will not be seen as something positive in the eyes of the interviewer." I disagree with this as written; it's akin to saying your motivation to get a job is to be able to pay for living expenses, which is often true though usually left implied. Plenty seek jobs they can do mainly for salary and insurance & still get hired. The demonstrated lack of responsibility for attending to this important detail is what will be looked on negatively. – WBT Jan 10 at 14:32
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    +1. Also, the entire post sounds like "I failed to communicate, missed an important date and don't give enough sh*t to my actual job to try harder". I'm sorry to say I'm not hiring OP – jean Jan 10 at 20:00
  • Like WBT, I'm not sure I agree with this. I mean, I see what you're getting at, and it's a risk, but as an interviewer I'm not sure I'd necessarily jump to the conclusion that the OP would not genuinely want this job if it weren't for the insurance angle. It's why they're looking for a new job, not specifically where they're looking for a new job with me. However, jean's got a good point. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 13 at 13:52
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No, do not tell your future employer why this is. You are basically openly telling your employer that you only want to work for them for health insurance. That is true of a vast number of people in a vast number of jobs, but nobody says it.

When asked about the change after three months, say that you want a different corporate culture and figure out something appealing about the company's culture. This also helps to explain why you are leaving after three months.

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    @WesleyLong, I mean, facebook is a website. – Celos Jan 8 at 9:13
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    Paying for healthcare and such is definitely a negative on the US, I agree, but I'm not sure its relevant to an answer. – Lio Elbammalf Jan 8 at 12:24
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    Surely theres a middle ground "I had to leave my previous company due to medical reasons (3 months is no longer weird), but I applied here because [reason new company is great] – Richard Tingle Jan 8 at 13:06
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    @RichardTingle a company might interpret that as health care issue induced underperformance. My first thought when I read that sentence was "this person had medical issues and couldn't do the work." – Matthew Gaiser Jan 8 at 15:11
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    @Celos - Touche. However, Facebook was BUILT to that value. The healthcare website SPENT that much on something of questionable value. – Wesley Long Jan 8 at 16:19
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You asked,

Is the truth the best option here?

If you are considering leaving your (otherwise satisfying) job simply because you missed open enrollment, then depending on your circumstances, and how you would define "best," that's likely not the best option.

If you have no dependents and are generally healthy, you may be able to get fairly low-cost insurance from your state's insurance exchange (aka "Obamacare.") Most states allow enrollment for 2020 through January 31st. If your state's open enrollment for ACA has already ended, you may still be eligible because of the loss of your current coverage. It may be worth contacting what ever help your state provides (i.e. a Navigator) to help understand your options. At the worst, you may waste a few minutes on the phone, but at best, you may find you have coverage available.

You can also enroll in private coverage that doesn't meet the minimum essential benefits qualification, although these plans are generally expensive and (per the name) don't offer much actual coverage. These are typically sold as critical illness, limited benefit, or medical discount plans.

If you have children and you're worried about their coverage, CHIP plans (child health insurance) don't have any enrollment restrictions; you can enroll your children any time.

Further, in some states, you may be eligible for coverage through Farm Bureau coverage, or coverage through a health care sharing ministry program (which basically operate like an insurance program, but are run by a church-based organization).

Also, some insurers will actually allow "I forgot" employees to enroll, as a special case - especially if the employer is self insured. Although, in most cases, this is strictly not allowed. But, even though you've gotten a "no" answer, it may not hurt to ask again, or ask further up the food chain. It may also be helpful to ask about COBRA, although I'm not sure "I missed open enrollment" is technically a COBRA-qualifying event (when I worked for a TPA that ran COBRA programs, we didn't specifically send notifications to people who affirmatively opted out of employer coverage).

Finally, if you are under 26, ACA regulations require that you are allowed to get coverage as a dependent on your parent's health insurance. If you are young enough, this may actually be the best option, since adding a dependent to an existing plan is almost always cheaper than getting new coverage yourself. This may even end up cheaper than whatever contribution you had to make to your own employer's plan.

If you do get stuck totally without coverage, you still have options to reduce the cost of any specific medical expenses you incur (if you decide to switch jobs, you may still need to work on some of these avenues before your new coverage kicks in under the new job). Many pharmacies or related businesses offer prescription drug discount programs. Sometimes you have to pay to be a member, but discounts can be monumental - it's not unusual for some drugs to be discounted 50 or 75% under such plans. Also, some drug vendors will subsidize the cost of their medications if you do not have a prescription benefit - since you mentioned in comments that you're on regular medication, you may want to contact the company that makes the drug to see if they can discount it for you. On expensive medications, the difference can be hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

And if it turns out that you incur other medical expenses (say, you have to go to urgent care because you become ill), you can almost always negotiate on the price. Medical providers are used to getting paid by insurance plans, and those plans negotiate fixed rates based on published fee schedules. These rates can sometimes be significantly lower than the billed rate - a normal office visit may bill at $200, but the provider may be used to getting paid $50 from the insurance plans it accepts. You can use this to your advantage, as an un-covered individual. When you get billed for your services, ask the provider, what would you normally get paid for this service from an insurance plan? Then, offer to pay that amount. Most providers will accept without hesitation.

Also, since you mentioned wanting to start therapy, you may want to contact your employer and determine if they have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program). These programs are almost always available to all employees, even if you haven't explicitly enrolled, and they often fully cover or significantly discount the cost of therapy.

So - in short - if you are otherwise happy with your job, you certainly have options for health insurance coverage that don't involve changing jobs. In fact, it's arguable that changing jobs may be a bad plan anyways - what if it takes you 6 months to find an acceptable job? You'd then be halfway to your next open enrollment anyways.

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    Unfortunately enrollment in my state ended in December. Private is an option that I'm exploring as well No kids, so no CHIP. I've seen a lot of bad stuff about church organization. They can deny any care that they want for any reason, which is why they aren't insurers. It's not the road for me. My employer has stated that "I forgot" is not an acceptable reason. – NegativeFriction Jan 7 at 21:41
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    If open enrollment in your state has ended, you may qualify for a special enrollment period because you've lost coverage (which is a qualifying event). You should probably make a phone call to a Navigator or whomever your state provides to help people with marketplace insurance, you may have options you're not aware of. It's hard to speak about this generically because options are nuanced and vary significantly from state to state. – dwizum Jan 8 at 13:56
  • Also might be worth asking your current employer if this makes you eligible for COBRA. I am having a hard time determining how your situation fits against COBRA requirements but - again - it doesn't hurt to ask! – dwizum Jan 8 at 14:26
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    Nope. Almost 30. I just screwed up like I was under 26. – NegativeFriction Jan 8 at 21:05
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    Get a low cost term insurance: that is possible. Then just get onboard this coming December. I do not recommend leaving your current job at this critical juncture. – javadba Jan 10 at 1:47
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Is the truth the best option here?

Well, a truth. The full description you've given here makes you look irresponsible and doesn't show much interest in the new company. There are ways of phrasing it, such as "You offer better benefits" that are technically true and don't reflect as badly on you. But you should also look into whether there are other ways of getting health insurance.

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    Talking about benefits / pay as a reason for wanting the job should be avoided entirely in interviews. Everyone knows that's why people get jobs but no interviewer wants to hear that in the interview. – eps Jan 8 at 16:57
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Increased pay and benefits is absolutely a valid reason to leave a job. I would not go into specifics though. That doesn't make you look great. Simply state that this job is offering a better pay/benefits package to what you have and you feel you need that to feel secure. However if you can find something else to go with I would. Surely the new company is doing something different you like, even if it isn't major. Any hiring manager who believes candidates are coming in for the joy of working for them is a terrible hiring manager. If that were true everyone in there would be happy to work for minimum wage.

Finally when getting an offer I would also feel free to use it versus HR. If you are wanted enough HR will find a way to do it. Otherwise go somewhere you will get the pay/benefits you are worth (or at least believed to be worth given this company was happy to offer it).

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I can't speak to whether or not that is a common reason (I sure hope not!), but it sure isn't a good look for you. Regardless of the complications at your company, the fact remains that the onus was on you to make sure you got insurance and you messed up. If a candidate told me that I would seriously question their ability to get the job done when it's important and their commitment to the job (are they going to leave when they miss my open enrollment too?).

I don't want to hire someone who is just after some benefits they missed because of their own mistake. Look for something that actually appeals to you in the company you are applying for and state that as your reason for leaving. Or give a good reason why your current job isn't a good fit for you but the one you are applying to is. Make me believe you actually want the job and aren't just trying to snag some benefits. Keep that to yourself.

Alternatively, stay at your current job and try to appeal to your HR department to see if they can get you in under some qualifying event. Or look into private insurance for coverage until the next open enrollment.

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    I spoke with HR, and they said in writing that the only way I'd get coverage was through a qualifying life event. Girlfriend and I are debating getting legally married just so that I can get insured. – NegativeFriction Jan 7 at 21:43
  • @NegativeFriction- I highly recommend that you don't try to game the system like that, lest the IRS come down on you for fraud (or similar). Especially since you just stated your intentions on a publicly-accessible website... – bta Jan 8 at 23:32
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    @bta Why do you think this is fraud or gaming the system? People decide to get married for all sorts of reasons, including financial/tax/etc. It seems like it's a genuine long term relationship. – seventyeightist Jan 9 at 21:10
  • @seventyeightist - Because the accountants that I ran it past said they've seen people get audited (or worse) for things like that. If you're going to get married anyway and you're moving up the timeline then that's one thing. If you wouldn't normally get married but you're inducing a status change for the sole purpose of benefit elections, then that's something entirely different. – bta Jan 9 at 22:39
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    @bta - The insurance company would have a very hard time proving intent. How do they prove the author is getting married to get insurance unless the author or their wife indicates that fact? I suppose this question, and their comment could be used, but that’s a stretch – Donald Jan 10 at 8:27
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As an American, I think "lack of health insurance" is a perfectly valid reason to leave a job, and I would just tell the interviewer that.

Something like, "I liked the job and would still be there, but I accidentally wound up unable to get health insurance" might prompt me to ask another question or two, but if you explained your circumstances just as in the question, my overall impression would be positive -- like, this candidate messed up, acknowledged it, and is taking steps to correct the matter. Also, they've learned a lot about health insurance and can explain their situation clearly.

(I actually missed the open enrollment period myself this year, but that just meant my previous elections carried over. Still annoying because I can't make HSA contributions this year.)

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    The problem with admitting that you missed open enrollment is that the hiring manager will know that it's an annual thing. You are effectively saying, I made a mistake, and I'm looking for a short term solution. – dwizum Jan 9 at 15:40
  • Every company has an open enrollment usually at the end of the year. It's something that happens to every company and not something easily missed. I'm sure a massive amount of emails and letters were sent. I would only follow your advise if this is my first job ever in my life and I am very young. – Dan Jan 9 at 15:51
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You're under 30. Do you really need healthcare, rather than just winging it and paying the fine for being uninsured? Not an ideal situation, but it's only one year... during which admittedly anything could happen. You have about a 0.15% chance of dying (based on age and gender: other factors can shift this dramatically: https://www.finder.com/life-insurance/odds-of-dying), and likely a considerably larger chance of encountering medical issues severe enough to make health insurance better than just putting money aside against disasters.

If you need it (or aren't willing to run the risk of not having it), then contrary to other answers, I think this is a fine reason to give in response to the "why are you leaving?" question, although as others have said, it's not so good for the "why come to us?" question.

"While I did feel I could be doing something more interesting, which stretched me more, like the role you're offering... I know I'm new to software development, so I was planning to stay the course, until a snafu with the enrollment period during the takeover meant I can't have coverage if I stay with them. So I learned I really need to read even the not-strictly-work-related emails super carefully, and after investigating all the other options like COBRA and church health, none of which panned out, I'm now looking for somewhere that I can set down roots."

There's no "right answer" to this question, only plenty of "wrong answers" (badmouthing your previous company, treating jobs as brief stepping-stones to better things, being let go with cause, etc). Admitting that you dropped the ball is fine, so long as you show 1) you learned from your mistake, 2) you took responsibility for that mistake rather than blaming others, 3) you took ownership of the problem and found a resolution.

To me, at least in this thread, you've done all three of the necessary things. You come across as honest and aware of your faults. Finding another job was the best of all the bad options available to you, and no reasonable hiring manager would reject you for that; instead they should be happy that fate has brought you onto the market!

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For now, with your employer, you need to take the view that it doesn't matter how the glitch happened, it's simply not acceptable for you to not have healthcare. And don't drop it.

Is the truth the best option here? If I say, "there were some issues during open enrollment, and unfortunately I was not insured once 2020 began. My only real course of action to gain coverage is to change jobs so that I can get something" will that convey a bad message to potential employers, that they shouldn't trust me and that I will drop the ball with important details?

No, that's gut-wrenchingly, excruciatingly, "can't bear to watch" wrong.

That wouldn't even be funny in a sitcom.

You need to change what truth is. You need to open your mind to the actual opportunities that are out there, and get excited about that. Look at job changing as an opportunity to do something really new. Because that is what will happen; you will be doing something new.

Further, you have to look at this as a step up, so you go into it with the right head to get yourself a good job.

As far as what to say to the old employer, "I simply cannot continue here without healthcare. That creates too much risk for me and mine. While I appreciate your desire to save money on employee healthcare, benefits were part of our employment agreement. It's a dealbreaker."

And that's perfectly reasonable, and there's not a thing they can say to argue with it.

I hope I don't need to remind you not to say that until after you've accepted the new opportunity.

Who knows, your company may now realize how serious things are, and offer to fix it to keep you. At that point, mention that the new job includes a raise, and they'll need to match it.

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Personally I think it will tell potential employers two things: 1) You do not care or follow up on important things. If you can't take care of yourself, then how can they expect you to care about them?

And 2) It tells the employer you're ready to leave at any time if things don't work out for you.

Unfortunately the health care laws are strong within the company. If you had valid reasons I would ask the company for an exception. Now is the time to ask as it is early in the year.

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I wouldn't mention it to a new employer just for one easy reason. It makes you look like an irresponsible slacker. I mean you can't even fill out a few forms to get insurance but then you want to cry about it. I have hired a lot of people and no matter your talent I would laugh at hiring someone who couldn't do something so basic. I would keep a tight lip on this for sure - like no way in hell mention this. Good luck finding something.

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I missed open enrollment [the 30-day deadline in the US for new employees to elect health insurance, or else be uninsured for the rest of that calendar year].

My first reaction to this was "what an absurd idea!" Why would any employer prevent an employee from enrolling in the health insurance at any time after starting your employment? Then I read https://www.healthcare.gov/quick-guide/dates-and-deadlines/ and realised this is a government mandated deadline.

Anyway, perhaps you can get insurance from somewhere else, to cover you until you are next able to enroll. On the other hand, if you don't really care for the job anyway, then just quit and get a new job, but get you act together and make sure you enroll within the deadline.

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    As a Brit turned US citizen, US health insurance seems an evil racket. Decent family healthcare through an employer costs a few hundred/month. Private can cost thousands/month or be unavailable depending on your state. Neither is means-tested. No cheap insurance if you miss the 1-month window, but you get fined if uninsured. If it pays out, it still requires you to pay the first chunk... it only pays a slice beyond that... up to a certain max. NOT having health insurance WILL bankrupt you in a disaster, but insurance is no guarantee you won't be bankrupted anyway. – Dewi Morgan Jan 10 at 18:16

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