Yes! There can be a reasonable orientation period before the waiting period begins.
Under the final regulations, a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group health insurance coverage may not apply any waiting period that exceeds 90 days. The regulations define “waiting period” as the period that must pass before coverage for an employee or dependent who is otherwise eligible to enroll under the terms of a group health plan can become effective.
Being otherwise eligible to enroll in a plan means having met the plan’s substantive eligibility conditions (such as, for example, being in an eligible job classification, achieving job-related licensure requirements specified in the plan’s terms, or satisfying a reasonable and bona fide employment-based orientation period).
Here is the final rule on orientation periods: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2014/06/25/2014-14795/ninety-day-waiting-period-limitation
One-Month Orientation Period
(From the Orientation Period Final Rule)
The proposed regulations provided that one month would be the maximum allowed length of any reasonable and bona fide employment-based orientation period.
The Departments stated that, during an orientation period, they envisioned that an employer and employee could evaluate whether the employment situation was satisfactory for each party, and standard orientation and training processes would begin.
Under the proposed regulations, if a group health plan conditions eligibility on an employee’s having completed a reasonable and bona fide employment-based orientation period, the eligibility condition would not be considered to be designed to avoid compliance with the 90-day waiting period limitation if the orientation period did not exceed one month and the maximum 90-day waiting period would begin on the first day after the orientation period.
The Departments are publishing these final regulations that incorporate the proposed regulations without any substantive changes.
1,200 Hour Requirement
(From the Waiting Period Final Rule)
The proposed regulations also addressed cumulative hours-of-service requirements, which use more than solely the passage of a time period in determining whether employees are eligible for coverage. These final regulations retain the provisions of the proposed regulations, described earlier in this preamble, without change.
Therefore, under these final regulations, if a group health plan or group health insurance issuer conditions eligibility on the completion by an employee (part-time or full-time) of a number of cumulative hours of service, the eligibility condition is not considered to be designed to avoid compliance with the 90-day waiting period limitation if the cumulative hours-of-service requirement does not exceed 1,200 hours.
Under the final regulations, the plan’s waiting period must begin on the first day after the employee satisfies the plan’s cumulative hours-of-service requirement and may not exceed 90 days. Furthermore, this provision continues to be designed to be a one-time eligibility requirement only; these final regulations do not permit, for example, re-application of such a requirement to the same individual each year.