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Life Changes Require Health Choices

Know Your Benefit Options


Marriage

What You Need to Know - Get all the details on your spouse's plan, and be sure you understand how it works. You'll want to know the amounts of any deductibles or copays you will be required to pay, and what you will pay for premiums.

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you may be entitled to add yourself, a new spouse and children to your employer's plan or to your spouse's employer's plan under a special enrollment period.

What You Need to Do - To qualify for the special enrollment period, you must notify the plan and request special enrollment for everyone enrolling within 30 days of your marriage. Your plan may require that the notice be in writing and that is usually the safest course of action anyway.

If your spouse has health coverage available, compare the health benefits, cost and options under both plans, and decide which one works best for you.


Pregnancy, Childbirth And Adoption

What You Need to Know - HIPAA places limits on the amount of time a pre-existing condition exclusion period may apply. In addition, health care plans cannot consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition, even if the woman did not have previous coverage.

Birth and adoption (including placement for adoption) may trigger a special enrollment period during which you, your spouse and new dependents can enroll in your employer's plan. Additionally, newborns and adopted children are not subject to pre-existing condition exclusions if they enroll within 30 days of the birth or adoption.

Under the Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act, plans that provide maternity or newborn benefits generally must provide coverage for mothers and newborns to stay in the hospital at least 48 hours following a vaginal delivery or 96 hours following a cesarean section, unless the doctor or other attending provider in consultation with the mother discharges earlier.

What You Need to Do - You must notify your plan and request special enrollment within 30 days of your child's birth, adoption, or placement for adoption. The child's enrollment will be treated as occurring on the date of the birth, adoption, or placement for adoption. Your plan may require that the notice be in writing.

Find out if your plan covers well-baby care. If not, you may need to figure extra money into your budget to cover vaccinations and appointments the baby will need during the first few months of life.


When Your Child Is No Longer A Dependent

What You Need to Know - Most health care plans will provide coverage to dependent children until they reach the age of 19 or the age of 25 if they are full-time students. Once your child loses dependent child status under your health care plan's rules, the child may be eligible to purchase temporary extended health care coverage for up to 36 months under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Generally, COBRA covers group health plans maintained by employers with 20 or more employees.

What You Need to Do - Once your covered child is no longer a dependent, notify your employer in writing within 60 days. In turn, your plan should notify your child of his or her right to extend health care benefits under COBRA. Your child will have 60 days from the date the notice was sent to elect COBRA coverage. The cost will be higher, since the employer will no longer pay a portion, but it is usually less than the cost of individual coverage.


Death, Legal Separation And Divorce

What You Need to Know - When an employee covered under an employer-sponsored health plan dies, legally separates or divorces, the covered spouse and dependent children may be eligible to purchase temporary extended health coverage for up to 36 months. The cost will be higher, since the employer will no longer pay a portion, but it is usually less than the cost of coverage they might obtain on their own.

If the spouse losing coverage under the plan has a health plan available through his or her employer, the spouse and any dependents may be eligible to obtain coverage through special enrollment.

If the covered employee dies or in the event of a legal separation or divorce, the plan should notify the covered spouse and dependent children of their right to purchase extended health care coverage under COBRA. Most plans require eligible individuals to make their COBRA election of coverage within 60 days of the plan's notice.

What You Need to Do - Should the employee who is covered by the health care plan die, the employer must notify the plan within 30 days. If there is a divorce or legal separation, the covered employee, spouse or dependent children must notify the plan in writing within 60 days. In case of death of the covered employee, divorce or legal separation, the plan should notify the eligible spouse and dependent children who would lose coverage under the plan of their right to purchase temporary extended health care coverage. Most plans require eligible individuals to make their COBRA election within 60 days of the plan's notice.

If the spouse losing coverage under the plan has a health plan available through his or her employer, the spouse and dependent children may be eligible for a special enrollment under that plan. To qualify, the spouse must notify that plan and request special enrollment within 30 days of the loss of coverage.

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