Postdocs - Eligibility for Benefits

The online CU Benefits Enrollment System will show you the benefits and options you are eligible for, as well as their monthly cost, and the benefits effective date. Eligibility begins upon your date of hire.

Eligible Postdoctoral Fellows

Full-Time PostDoctoral Clinical Fellows and Postdoctoral Research Fellows not receiving Salary are eligible for:
  • UnitedHealthcare Choice Plus 80 Medical, Vision and Prescription drug Benefits
  • Aetna Dental Benefits
  • Tuition Exemption Benefits for the American Language Program

Ineligibile Postdoctoral Fellows

Part-Time Postdoctoral Fellows are not eligible for coverage under Columbia University benefits.

Eligible Dependents

For Medical, Vision and Dental benefits, your dependents—your spouse or same-sex domestic partner and your eligible children—can be covered if you verify that they meet the following requirements:
  • Legal spouse
  • Same-sex domestic partner 
  • Legally dependent children, including adopted children

Who You Can Cover for Medical (including Vision) and Dental

You do not have to cover the same eligible dependents for the medical and dental plans.
For each plan, you have the choice of covering:
  • Yourself only;
  • Yourself and your spouse or eligible same-sex domestic partner;
  • Yourself and a child or children; or
Family: you, your spouse or eligible same-sex domestic partner, plus children.

Making Changes to Dependent Eligibility

There are two ways to add or make a change in dependent eligibility:

  1. Go to the CU Benefits Enrollment System, and click “Log In: CU Benefits Enrollment System” to make changes to the status of your dependents (through a Qualified Life Status Change); or
  2. Call the Columbia Benefits Service Center at 212-851-7000 for instructions.

When your dependent is no longer eligible, it is your responsibility to report this change to the Columbia Benefits Service Center within 31 days of the change.

Both Work for the University?

If you and your spouse both work for the University and are eligible for coverage, you must choose your coverage in one of the following ways:

  • One spouse makes the choice for the entire family, including eligible dependent children, if any. In this case, the other spouse must select “No Coverage.”
  • Each spouse can make his or her own choice. In this case, all eligible dependent children must be covered by one spouse or the other.

Proof of Dependent Eligibility

Columbia University has a responsibility to ensure that only eligible expenses are paid from its plans. This requirement is consistent with IRS regulations that govern the operation of a qualified benefits plan.
Verifying Dependent Eligibility
If you are adding a dependent spouse, same-sex domestic partner or child(ren) to your coverage, you are required to provide documentation before the dependent’s coverage is effective. If you are not able to provide proof that your dependent is eligible for coverage, your dependent’s coverage will not be activated.
  • To add your dependent at the time you enroll in your own benefits, follow the instructions on the CU Benefits Enrollment System. To make changes due to a Qualified Life Status Change, please refer to the “Making Changes to your Benefits” section above. The system will take you to the “Dependent Required Documentation” chart below. If you need assistance, call the Columbia Benefits Service Center at 212-851-7000.

You can provide your documentation through the following methods:

If you do not have access to scan documents and send them via email or fax, contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center. 

ImportantImportant! For security reasons, please remove all Social Security Numbers from paperwork—you should enter Social Security Numbers directly into the CU Benefits Enrollment System when first adding your dependents.
REMEMBER: You must enroll for benefits within 31 days of your date of hire or eligibility.


Proof of Dependent Eligibility

SpouseCopy of legal marriage certificate
Same-Sex Domestic PartnerAny two of the following:
• Joint lease or mortgage
• Joint ownership of property
• Joint bank account statement
• Designation of the partner as primary beneficiary in your will or designation of the partner as beneficiary for your life insurance or retirement benefits
• Assignment of power of attorney to your partner
ChildOne of the following:
• Child’s birth certificate
• Hospital record of birth (temporarily accepted for newborns until birth certificate is received)
• Adoption certificate/court order

* If your document is in a foreign language, please submit a copy of the original document, as well as a notarized English translation. The document must be translated by someone other than yourself or your family member. 

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the IRS requires all employers to collect the Social Security Number (SSN) for all employees and their dependents covered by our benefits plans. Social Security Numbers are required to add a dependent to your coverage. If you have dependents who do not have Social Security Numbers, please call the Columbia Benefits Service Center at 212-851-7000.

Qualified Life Status Changes

The IRS restricts when you can add coverage for a dependent or make changes to your benefits elections during the year. After new hire enrollment, or after annual Benefits Open Enrollment, you will only be able to change most benefits for the remainder of the calendar year if you experience a Qualified Life Status Change.
If you experience a Qualified Life Status Change, go to the CU Benefits Enrollment system within 31 days of the event.
The benefits changes must comply with IRS regulations and be consistent with the nature of your Qualified Life Status Change. In addition, you must provide proper documentation for your change, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate or divorce decree. If you need assistance, please contact the Columbia Benefits Service Center at 212-851-7000.