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I live and work in New York City; my employer is a large not-for-profit (thousands of employees). This past November I enrolled in my employer's annual benefits-enrollment period. For the first time in my 5-year employment, I enrolled my husband as a dependent. We did this online together, and everything appeared fine; once my submission appeared to go through, he submitted his refusal of benefits to his employer. No errors occurred, nor did I get any notice about the submission being incomplete. It was a stressful moment for both of us because we were worried about a lapse in benefits, so we were very careful about it.

Fast forward to today: I noticed that my benefits did not appear to include my husband as a dependent, so I immediately wrote to my employer's benefits office for clarification. I was informed that, although they have a record of me entering my husband into the online enrollment forms, the enrollment was never "committed". I don't know precisely what this means in terms of their software, but they claim that I ignored a large error banner on the online forms. This is not true, but they also claim that there is no possible way to review and/or appeal this error, especially after so much time has passed. Essentially, they claim that my husband is out of luck and will be ineligible for health-care coverage for the entire year as a result. I firmly believe that we did nothing wrong, that this is their error, and that it is completely unacceptable that a clerical and/or software error means that we are forced to gamble with my husband's life and our financial solvency.

They have told me so far that they cannot change anything because doing so would be illegal and that there is no appeals process. If this is really the case, then I would like to know:

What options do I have to escalate and/or appeal this issue outside of my employer. Specifically, are there government agencies to which I can submit a complaint that my employer has failed to perform due diligence regarding my husband's coverage? Is there a government agency or other organization whose mission is to assist people with this kind of problem? An earlier comment (now deleted I think) suggested the department of labor; other similar resources would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Addendums

  • A good suggestion from comments was to talk to my union! Unfortunately, I have reached out to our union, and my position is not actually represented.
  • I contacted the NY Department of Labor; they informed me that because there is no regulation of employer benefits in NY state, there is nothing they can do. But also, because there is no regulation, there is nothing preventing my employer from enrolling my husband.
  • I also contacted the NY state employee benefits security administration; they are going to contact my employer to ask what is going on. It's not clear to me what, if anything, they are empowered to do beyond ask. They said I would likely hear back from them in 2-4 weeks.
  • What are the stated exceptions to the enrollment period? Moving? Change of circumstances? Did they tell you any of this in writing? Can you prove what they said to you in response? – Stephan Branczyk Feb 11 at 0:27
  • I have an email in which they admitted that the forms were filled out but not "committed". They told me over the phone that I we were not eligible for any of the exceptions such as getting married (too long ago), changing jobs, or moving. – Terrified Employee Feb 11 at 0:29
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    I don't get it. How was it possible that your health insurance coverage is intact, but your dependent's insurance is not? If the change was not committed, wouldn't you both not have health insurance? – jcmack Feb 11 at 1:09
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    Oh, and I am in a union and just sent them a message; thanks for suggesting looking into that option. – Terrified Employee Feb 11 at 1:27
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    Something like this happened to me. My HR was able to bend the rules, but not from me talking directly to them. What I had to do was go up the non-HR chain of command as high as possible, and have the product line director talk directly to the HR director. – Justin Feb 13 at 13:23
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I was informed that, although they have a record of me entering my husband into the online enrollment forms, the enrollment was never "committed".

This is unfortunately a very common error with health care enrollment and something my company tries to bring up frequently in mails and emails. To be sure to "commit" your changes as a lot of folks just enter their data and never commit. Every system I've seen lets you go through each step of the benefit, enter your info, dependents, then you have to "commit" or save it as the final step. This way you can make changes throughout your enrollment period and then finally submit. You should get an email and a letter in the mail.

At the end you can usually save the enrollment document via pdf or words and save it on your computer.

My thought is if you can materialize the cofirmation email, then you have a chance. Otherwise you have to wait until the next enrollment period. You can make an argument that you did not realize there was a save button and by their own wording know you entered your husband.

On the flip side, you can ask your husband if he can enroll at his company. Perhaps they are more understanding.

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    Our reminders to enroll says nothing about committing, and according to the benefits office, we would have had to have ignored a large red banner saying that we hadn't committed our changes when we enrolled. This definitely was not the case. There was no confirmation email nor has there ever been in years past when my enrollment was correct. – Terrified Employee Feb 12 at 13:52
  • @TerrifiedEmployee That sounds problematic that you have no way to confirm your enrollment and must trust that it worked. Personally I think you should bring that up with HR and possibly contact a lawyer to see if there's any sort of violation within your state. – Dan Feb 18 at 15:41

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