Category Archive

2023 March

Qualifying Life Events

2023 March, Benefit Spotlight February 24, 2023

Signing up for benefits usually only occurs during your company’s open enrollment period, or when starting a new job at a new company. But did you know that these are not necessarily the only times you can elect or change your benefits?

Sometimes there are changes in your life, planned or unplanned, called Qualifying Life Events (QLEs), that allow you to add or change benefits. These QLEs are determined by the IRS, and when they occur, QLEs can allow you to enroll in health insurance or make changes to your benefits outside of the regular windows

When a qualifying life event occurs, you typically have 30 to 31 days to request changes to your coverage. Common QLEs include:

  • A change in the number of dependents (through birth or adoption or if a child is no longer an eligible dependent)
  • A change in a spouse’s employment status (resulting in a loss or gain of coverage)
  • A change in your legal marital status (marriage, divorce, or legal separation)
  • A change in employment status from full time to part time, or part time to full time, resulting in a gain or loss of eligibility
  • Eligibility for coverage through the Marketplace
  • Changes in address or location that may affect coverage
  • Entitlement to Medicare or Medicaid

Some lesser-known QLEs are:

  • Turning 26 and losing coverage through a parent’s plan
  • Death in the family (leading to change in dependents or loss of coverage)
  • Changes that make you no longer eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

If you have recently experienced a QLE or expect to in the near future, reach out to your company’s Human Resources for questions regarding specific life events and your ability to request changes.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

There was a time when most people thought of post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD — in terms of soldiers who returned home from combat. Today, we know that anyone can develop PTSD at any age, and it can stem from many types of traumas.

Individuals who experience a car wreck, physical or sexual assault, witness a violent crime, a natural disaster, or the sudden loss of a loved one can develop a prolonged feeling of stress or fright long after they’re no longer in danger. Someone who wasn’t directly impacted by a traumatic event may also develop PTSD when they discover that loved one close to them has been involved in one.

PTSD affects people differently. The symptoms — which can develop soon after the traumatic event or appear months later — tend to be categorized into four different types:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms (flashbacks, nightmares)
  • Avoidance symptoms (staying busy, avoiding related places and activities)
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms (angry outbursts, irritability)
  • Cognition and mood symptoms (trouble concentrating, feeling helpless)

These symptoms can impede a person’s everyday functions and relationships, and rarely get better with time alone. PTSD treatment often includes a combination of talk therapy and medication. Working with a mental health professional to learn to identify and manage trauma triggers can be life-changing for many suffering from PTSD. Certain medications can also help treat symptoms, including sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness.

Untreated PTSD can cause a person to persistently re-experience their trauma and suffer from prolonged symptoms that negatively impact their everyday life. If you think that you are experiencing PTSD, talk to your physician today. They can help you determine whether you’re suffering from PTSD and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) (if you are a veteran, dial this number and then press 1 to access the Veteran Crisis Line).


More Than Sleepy

When someone hears the term fatigue, they likely think of feeling tired — but it’s more than that. Feeling sleepy is a symptom of fatigue, but the overwhelming sense of feeling drained can be the result of many different factors.

Excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, drug use (both illicit and certain prescription or over-the-counter), lack of exercise, poor sleep, an unhealthy diet, or weight disorders can lead to fatigue. It can manifest in muscle soreness and aches, gastrointestinal problems, irritability, blurriness of vision, trouble concentrating, and other symptoms.

Adjusting your lifestyle through proper diet, stress management, and getting 7–9 hours of sleep each can help alleviate feelings of fatigue. And while it may seem counterintuitive to exercise when fatigued, physical activity is proven to help.

Making lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming, so start small. Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings and swap sugary snacks with fruits and vegetables. Start incorporating some movement (stretching, walking in place, yoga) when watching TV or doing other sedentary activities.

Emotional and mental health issues can also contribute to fatigue, including grief, stress, anxiety disorders and depression, and even boredom. You may want to work with a healthcare provider to manage and cope with any emotional distress that contributes to your fatigue.

If you are experiencing unresolved fatigue that lasts longer than a couple of days or interferes with everyday activities, consult your primary care physician. Some cases of fatigue are a symptom or side effect of another condition that need treatment. Some of these include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Deficiencies (anemia or other vitamins)
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Many others


Fertility & Family Planning

Beginning or expanding your family is a major life event with many factors to take into consideration. While it’s an exciting prospect, family planning can be stressful.

Adding a child to your family through birth or adoption can be complicated. For starters, infertility is not uncommon, affecting one in eight heterosexual couples. The good news is that, since 2021, there has been a sharp uptick in employers offering fertility and adoption benefits.

Vendors such as Carrot and Progyny provide fertility services that may include egg freezing, drug therapy, intrauterine insemination, and in vitro fertilization. These services make attainable fertility treatments that would otherwise be financially out of reach for many people. (A single round of IVF, for instance, can run between $15,000 and $30,000.) Some providers also offer assistance with surrogacy arrangements, an option for people for whom other fertility treatments are medically unadvisable or possible.

If you choose to grow your family via adoption, this can be a lengthy and expensive process, costing anywhere between $15,000 and $40,000. Some vendors that may be accessible via your company might also offer adoption benefits, helping walk you through the time-intensive steps of adopting a child. Notably, many companies have opened adoption and surrogacy benefits to LGBTQ+ employees and single employees who have historically been excluded from family planning benefits. Additionally, roughly 10% of companies offer some form of adoption financial assistance, as well as 29% offering paid adoption leave. (Be sure to consult your tax advisor if you plan on both accepting your company’s adoption financial assistance and filing for an adoption tax credit.)

It is likely more and more employers will add fertility and family planning benefits as time goes on, especially given a high percentage of millennials say they would change jobs for these benefits. Talk with your company’s Human Resources to find out if your employer offers any of these benefits or might in the future.