Understanding "Plan Year" Vs "Calendar Year": Key Health Insurance Terms Defined

Health care jargon explained
Health insurance 101
Health plans
Healthcare industry

Introduction to “Plan Year” and “Calendar Year”

The Context and Use of These Terms

In the realm of health insurance, the terms “Plan Year” and “Calendar Year” are pivotal in defining the time frames for coverage, benefits, and financial responsibilities. Understanding these terms is crucial for both individuals and businesses as they navigate the complexities of health insurance plans.

Relevance in Finance and Business

These terms are not just jargon; they have significant implications in the financial planning and operational strategies of businesses, especially those providing health insurance benefits to their employees.

Difference Between Plan Year and Calendar Year

Calendar Year: Definition and Characteristics

A calendar year refers to the standard January to December period. In health insurance, it often dictates the schedule for deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and premium changes.

Plan Year: Definition and Characteristics

Conversely, a plan year is specific to the health plan and may not align with the calendar year. It's defined as the 12-month period during which health insurance benefits are calculated.


Comparing these two terms helps in understanding how insurance coverage and costs are managed over time. The choice between plan year and calendar year can affect financial planning, both for individuals and employers.

What Does Per Calendar Year Mean?

Explanation of the Term

“Per calendar year” in the context of health insurance refers to the benefits or limits set for the duration of a calendar year. This could include deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.


For instance, an annual deductible might be $2,000 per calendar year, meaning the insured would need to pay this amount in medical expenses each calendar year before the insurance company covers additional costs.

Calendar Year Deductible

Definition and Explanation

A calendar year deductible is the amount an insured person pays out-of-pocket for healthcare services each calendar year before the insurance company begins to pay.

Impact on Expenditures and Finances

This deductible plays a crucial role in an individual's healthcare expenses. It's important to understand how this affects overall healthcare costs and insurance benefits.

Calendar Year Deductible: A Deeper Dive

Detailed Explanation

A calendar year deductible is reset at the beginning of each calendar year. Understanding this concept is essential for managing healthcare expenses and insurance claims.

Examples in Practice

For example, if an individual reaches their deductible in November, they will start over with a new deductible in January of the following year.

Plan Year vs Calendar Year: Detailed Comparison

Pros and Cons

The choice between a plan year and a calendar year for health insurance has various advantages and disadvantages. A plan year provides flexibility in coverage start dates, while a calendar year aligns with standard fiscal planning.

Business Planning Effects

For businesses, selecting between a plan year and a calendar year for their health insurance plans can significantly impact budgeting, employee benefits administration, and compliance with regulations like the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Addressing Top Questions

What is a Plan Year?

A plan year is the 12-month period determined by an employer's health plan, during which employee benefits are calculated and applied.

Calendar Year vs Year

While a calendar year follows the standard January to December format, a “year” in different contexts might not align with these dates, such as a fiscal or academic year.

Example of a Calendar Year

An example of a calendar year would be January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023. This period is commonly used for tax calculations and health insurance deductibles.

Calendar Year Meaning in Health Insurance

In health insurance, a calendar year is used to determine the period for deductible accumulation, premium changes, and benefit renewals.

ERISA Definition of Plan Year

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a plan year is defined as the year designated in the plan document, which may not necessarily coincide with the calendar year.

Deductibles Resetting Every Calendar Year

Health insurance deductibles typically reset at the beginning of each calendar year, meaning all accrued payments toward the deductible start over.

Fiscal Year for Insurance

A fiscal year for insurance refers to the financial year used for accounting purposes by the insurance company, which may differ from the calendar year.

Calendar Year vs Policy Year

While a calendar year is the standard year, a policy year refers to the 12-month period covered by an insurance policy, which may start and end on any date.

Insurance Resetting Every Calendar Year

Certain aspects of insurance, like deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, reset with each calendar year.

Once Per Calendar Year in Insurance

This phrase means that a particular benefit or service is available or limited to once in each calendar year.

Out-of-Pocket Maximum vs Calendar Year Deductible

The out-of-pocket maximum is the most an insured person will pay during a calendar year for covered services, while a calendar year deductible is the amount paid before the insurance starts to pay.

Plan Year vs Benefit Year

While a plan year refers to the period a health plan is in effect, a benefit year in some contexts may refer to the specific time frame during which benefits are payable under the plan.

Plan Year Duration

Typically, a plan year is twelve months, but there are exceptions based on specific plan provisions or employer requirements.

Deductible Based on Plan Year or Calendar Year

A deductible can be based on either a plan year or a calendar year, depending on the specific health insurance plan.

Health Insurance Cost in the US Per Year

The cost of health insurance in the US varies widely based on factors like coverage, location, and the insurer. It can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars annually.

Origin Year of Health Insurance

Health insurance, in its modern form, began in the early 20th century, with more comprehensive plans developing post World War II.


Understanding the distinction between a plan year and a calendar year is crucial in navigating the complexities of health insurance. Whether you are an individual policyholder, a small business owner, or an HR professional, grasping these concepts aids in making informed decisions about health coverage, financial planning, and ensuring compliance with health insurance regulations. As the healthcare landscape evolves, staying informed about these nuances will remain an essential aspect of managing health insurance effectively.

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