Open enrollment is a period of time when you can sign up for health insurance. Keep in mind, if you don’t sign up during the open enrollment period, you may not be able to sign up until the next open enrollment period, unless you have a qualifying event. That can be 12 month gap, which is why open enrollment is so important.
When is Open Enrollment?
Different types of health care plans have different open enrollment dates.
Medicare open enrollment runs from October 15th to December 7th each year. These dates do not apply to Medigap plans (which don’t have an annual open enrollment period), which are only available without medical underwriting during the initial enrollment period, or one of the very limited special enrollment periods that apply to those plans.
Employment-based health insurance open enrollment periods are determined by your employer and can happen any time of the year. Typically, these plans open enrollment periods are in the Fall, so that coverage can begin on January 1.
Individual market (on and off-exchange) open enrollment periods have varied significantly the past few years. Here are the important dates for 2019 open enrollment:
- The 2019 Open Enrollment Period runs from Thursday, November 1, 2018 to Saturday, December 15, 2018.
- If you don’t act by December 15, you can’t get 2019 coverage unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (more on that below).
- Plans sold during Open Enrollment generally start January 1, 2019.
What is Special Enrollment?
Insurance plans with open enrollment have an exception that allows you to sign up outside the specified time period. Of course, rules apply in these instances as you must have extenuating circumstances, usually known as life events. The special enrollment period allows you to sign up for health insurance if you lost your previous coverage because of these reasons:
- Lost your job
- Got divorced or married
- Became a widow or widower
- Aged off your parents plan
- Had a new baby
- Let COBRA coverage expire
It’s important to note that if you lost your prior insurance because you didn’t pay the monthly premiums or voluntarily cancel your prior coverage, you won’t be eligible for the special enrollment period.
Types of Health Insurance that Don’t Use Open Enrollment
There are a few health insurers that don’t have an open enrollment period such as:
- CHIP – the U.S. government’s Children Health Insurance Program doesn’t have an open enrollment period, if you qualify, you can sign up anytime.
- Medicaid – the state – based health insurance program doesn’t have an open enrollment period. If you qualify for Medicaid, you may enroll at any time.
- Short-Term Health Insurance – options do not use open enrollments periods. As short term health insurance isn’t regulated by the ACA, plans are available year-round, in the states they are allowed.
- Supplemental Health Insurance products – some individual supplemental insurance plans are available year-round. However, if your employer offers supplemental insurance, you’ll likely need to sign up during your employers open enrollment period.
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Whatever type of health insurance you have, it’s good to know about the upcoming open enrollment periods to be sure to keep you and your family protected.
Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.