How to Add a New Spouse as a Dependent for Medical Insurance

After the wedding, don't forget the insurance paperwork.

Happy couple on their wedding day. image by Gina Smith from

After your wedding is just a pleasant memory and you’re home from your honeymoon, it’s time to go back to work. One of the administrative tasks that you may need to address is adding your new spouse to your medical insurance policy. Although different companies and different policies have different guidelines for adding a dependent, there are basic steps you’ll take regardless of your specific policy.

Where to Start

Because your employer and its insurance provider has certain procedures for adding a new spouse as a dependent to your medical insurance policy, an office visit or phone call to your human resources department will start the ball rolling. If you have individual medical insurance or if you’re self-employed, contact a representative at your insurance company directly.

A plan administrator will point you in the direction of the correct forms that will change the details of your insurance enrollment, including adding your new spouse. You may be able to pick up the forms at your place of business, have your insurance representative mail the forms to you or download the forms from the plan’s website. Some companies require you to fill out only one form, but other companies may require some supplemental paperwork. For example, you may have to complete a proof-of-triggering-event form as well as an account change form.

Time Frame for Adding Spouse

Some insurers allow their policyholders to make changes to their insurance policies only during certain windows called “open enrollment periods,” which may fall during a once-yearly time frame and typically last four to six weeks. But this window may have come and gone just before you were married, and the next open enrollment period may be far in the future.

If your company's open enrollment period has passed, you'll have another option for adding a spouse to your health insurance because you've experienced a “qualifying life event,” which includes things such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child and death. Make sure you enroll your new spouse within your provider’s allowable window for a qualifying life event. Typically, this window is 60 days after your marriage, but some providers may allow up to 90 days.

Completing Insurance Forms

When you add your new spouse as a dependent on your medical insurance policy, your insurer will need details such as your spouse’s full name, the date of your marriage and your spouse’s date of birth. You may also have to provide additional documentation such as copies of your marriage certificate, your spouse's birth certificate, your spouse's Social Security card and photo identification for your spouse. If your spouse is employed, you may need to provide your spouse’s employer information.

Although your spouse can have medical coverage with more than one provider, through your employer and your spouse’s employer, you’ll need to confirm with your provider that your spouse has either waived coverage with her employer or designated one insurer as the primary provider and the other as a secondary provider.

Don’t forget to sign and date the forms and have your spouse sign also. Be sure to retain copies for your records. Submit the forms to your human resources department or directly to your insurance provider, according to the instructions on the forms.

When Does Medical Coverage Begin?

Effective dates of coverage vary, depending on each insurance provider's guidelines. Some insurers set a deadline to receive your paperwork, such as the 15th of the month, to start coverage for your spouse by the first of the following month. Other insurers may begin coverage for your spouse as of the date of your marriage, as long as you submit the proper forms within the enrollment window.