Sometimes employers don’t provide non-legally required benefits, such as retirement contributions, paid time off, and health and dental coverage, to part-time employees. And when they do, those benefits may be minimized in some way.
But just because you’re a part-time worker doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your health. It’s important to get health, vision and dental insurance coverage, whether through your employer or on your own.
About one in four Americans do not have dental insurance, and the lack of coverage significantly increases your risk of developing more serious health problems, which can turn into costly expenses down the road.
How, as a part-time employee, can you make sure you get the total health coverage you need?
Questions to ask when enrolling in dental insurance as a part-time employee
How many hours do you need to work to be considered part-time?
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics defines part time as working one to 34 hours per week.1 A minimum of 20 hours per week is a common definition for part-time employment for many companies.
However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t legally define full or part-time employment. Because of this, employers have some flexibility when deciding what constitutes part time and which benefits to offer part-time employees.
Which benefits do part-time employees receive?
Employers can offer different benefits to part-time employees than the ones their full-time staff receives, although there are some legally required benefits they must offer.
Benefits such as workers’ compensation insurance, Social Security, or short-term disability insurance (if it’s required in the state where the worker is employed) are required for both full-time and part-time employees.
Additionally, employers may offer a reduced benefits package which can include health and dental insurance coverage, retirement plans, paid time off, childcare services, and more.
Part-time employees typically receive less paid time off and less coverage for medical, dental, and vision expenses than full-time employees. However, enrolling in insurance outside of your employer’s plan is always a viable option if you want additional coverage.
Are part-time employees covered by health and dental insurance?
Again, the answer to this question depends on the employer. Some companies have rules regarding a minimum number of working hours to qualify for health insurance.
In addition to minimum hours, the size of the company can impact what kind of insurance coverage is available. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires companies with 50 or more workers to offer coverage to full-time employees and their dependent children. There is no requirement to provide health insurance to part-time employees, although some employers may include it in their benefits packages.
If your employer doesn’t offer insurance coverage, you can fill out an application through your state or federal healthcare marketplace to receive healthcare insurance. When you fill out the application, you’ll find out if you qualify for:
- A health insurance plan with savings on your monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses based on your household size and income
- Free or low-cost coverage for you and your family through Medicaid or, in the case of covering your dependents only, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Do you qualify for COBRA?
If you’re between jobs, you may qualify for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) continuation coverage. COBRA allows you to continue your employer-sponsored health insurance for 18 to 36 months while you look for a new position.
If you had vision or dental insurance, you can also continue to be covered under COBRA for those plans. However, you cannot choose new coverage or change plans while using COBRA.
Keep in mind that COBRA coverage is not something every employer has for workers who have left. Group plans offered through a private sector employer with at least 20 full-time employees must offer COBRA coverage. COBRA also applies to most state and local government health plans.
Part-time employees can qualify for COBRA, too. You may qualify for COBRA coverage if:
- You were laid off from your job
- You quit your job
- You were fired but not for gross misconduct
- Your employment was terminated for any other reason
- You went from a full-time job to a part-time job at a new company and don’t qualify for health insurance benefits through your new employer
Under COBRA, you’ll pay group rates for your insurance plan without your employer’s contribution, which means a COBRA plan may become pretty costly. COBRA may not be a good fit for everyone, especially part-time employees who may not be able to afford it on their current income.
You can shop for cheaper insurance plan options on your state or federal marketplace, but be sure to make a timely decision. You need to sign up for COBRA within 60 days of losing your employer insurance plan.
If you miss this 60-day window, you must wait for the next annual open enrollment period to apply for a plan. You can switch to private insurance from your COBRA plan at any time. This makes COBRA a good stopgap for coverage when you need it, even if you plan to shop around for health insurance later.2
Can my spouse’s job cover my health insurance needs if I work part-time?
The ACA does not require employers to provide health coverage for spouses. However, they must provide coverage for your dependent children up to 26 years of age. This means companies have a lot of flexibility in terms of which healthcare benefits they offer to their employees’ spouses, if any.
Company insurance plans may allow spouse coverage at a premium, meaning your spouse may pay more to add you to their plan. However, this may be a good option if you work part time and anticipate needing coverage because your employer doesn’t offer coverage.
However, keep in mind that not all plans include vision and dental coverage, in which case, you’ll need to get those separately.
Dental insurance coverage for part-time employees
Between paying for routine cleanings or for dental emergencies, the cost of paying for your dental care out-of-pocket can be a huge stress on an already-reduced-salary budget. Dental insurance coverage can alleviate those concerns for part-time employees.
If you run into a situation where you must pay for dental work outside of preventative care, dental insurance can significantly reduce the cost.
A crown, for example, can cost $500 to $2,000 depending on the type of crown needed and which tooth needs the crown.3 Your pocketbook can take a big hit without dental insurance coverage.
Whether you’re covered by your spouse’s health insurance plan, your own part-time plan, or COBRA, if your medical plan doesn’t include dental coverage, you can purchase your own individual dental insurance plan online.
Some dental plans impose waiting periods when you first enroll, where your insurer will not pay for treatments or procedures like an extraction, bride or filling. This waiting period can be anywhere between three and six months. However, preventive care like checkups and cleanings will more than likely be covered as soon as you enroll.
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