What is Open Enrollment?

You may be hearing the term “open enrollment.” Toward the end of the calendar year, this term becomes especially relevant. So, what does it mean?

Open enrollment is the period of time during which you can enroll in a health insurance plan. Depending on where you get your health insurance, this time period may or may not fall at the end of the year. Generally, it is the only time of year you can enroll in new coverage or change your existing coverage. Exceptions may be made in the case of life changes like marriage, divorce, or childbirth.

If you get your insurance through the Affordable Care Act, you are buying insurance through the health exchange. When you hear the term Obamacare, it refers to this type of insurance. Open enrollment has just begun for Obamacare. To enroll in this health insurance for the 2018 calendar year, you must sign up between November 1, 2017 and December 15, 2017. You can do this through healthcare.gov or through your state marketplace.

If you get your insurance through your employer, ask your employer when open enrollment is. You likely will have enrolled in the insurance plan when you started working for the company. After that, there is usually one month out of the year during which you can re-enroll for another year or make changes to your policy. Ask your employer, typically the human resources department, when the enrollment period is and what forms you will need to complete.

Other health insurance options may not have specific open enrollment periods. For example, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, allow you to apply at any time.

Enrollment for Medicare is based on age. You can enroll for Medicare at age 65 years. The enrollment period begins 3 months before your 65th birthday and ends 3 months after your 65th birthday.

Although the fate of Obamacare is currently in question, as of this writing, open enrollment is open. If you plan to use this health insurance, be sure to sign up during open enrollment. The deadline is December 15.

Do you want more guidance as you choose which health insurance plan is best for you and your family? Get my book Easy Healthcare: Choose Your Health Insurance. In it, I walk through everything you need to know, including what kinds of health plans may be available to you, what information you should gather before choosing a plan, and some of the terms you will want to know.