Curious about when you should notify a participant about a change to their health care plan?
The answer is that it depends!
Notification must happen within one of three time frames: 60 days prior to the change, no later than 60 days after the change, or within 210 days after the end of the plan year.
For modifications to the summary plan description (SPD) that constitute a material reduction in covered services or benefits, notice is required within 60 days prior to or after the adoption of the material reduction in group health plan services or benefits. (For example, a decrease in employer contribution is a material reduction in covered services or benefits. So is a material modification in any plan terms affecting the content of the most recent summary of benefits and coverage (SBC).) While the rule here is flexible, the definite best practice is to give advance notice. For collective practical purposes, employees should be told prior to the first increased withholding.
However, if the change is part of open enrollment, and communicated during open enrollment, this is considered acceptable notice regardless of whether the SBC, SPD, or both are changing. Essentially, open enrollment is a safe harbor for all 60-day prior/60-day post notice requirements.
Finally, changes that do not affect the SBC and are not a material reduction in benefits must be communicated and summarized within 210 days after the end of the plan year.