- Open enrollment is the annual period when you can enroll in a health insurance plan, change plans, or change your coverage.
- In most states, open enrollment for 2020 coverage runs from November 1st to December 15th.
- If you miss the open enrollment period, you won’t be able to enroll in a plan unless you have a qualifying event that triggers a special enrollment period.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
If you’ve previously had employer-sponsored health insurance or have been covered by a family healthcare plan, you may not be familiar with open enrollment. But if you need to buy your own health insurance this year, open enrollment is an important time period to pay attention to.
Even if you have an existing individual health insurance plan, you don’t want to ignore the open enrollment period. Let’s take a look at what open enrollment is, why it’s important, and when it happens each year.
What is open enrollment?
Open enrollment is a period of time each year when you can shop for and enroll in a health insurance plan. You can also change or cancel your current coverage during the open enrollment period.
Before 2014, you could enroll year-round for health insurance. But you’d also generally need to submit to medical underwriting and could be denied coverage if you had pre-existing conditions. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you cannot be denied coverage when you apply during the open enrollment period.
In most states, open enrollment for 2020 coverage runs from November 1st to December 15th, 2019. State-run exchanges may have more flexible open enrollment periods. Find the marketplace in your state.
If you miss the open enrollment period, you won’t be able to enroll in a plan unless you have a qualifying event that triggers a special enrollment period. Examples include getting married, having a baby, or losing employer-sponsored coverage.
How to shop for health insurance during open enrollment
Coverage for plans sold during open enrollment will begin on January 1, 2020. Since open enrollment ends December 15th, you won’t be able to change coverage in January if you’re surprised by a premium increase. So it’s important to shop around each year during open enrollment to make sure that you’re still getting the best deal.
For most states, you’ll sign up for health coverage at Healthcare.gov. If this will be your first time using the marketplace, you’ll need to fill out an application.
Once you’ve finished your application, you can begin shopping for a plan. There are four types of health insurance plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
Regardless of which plan you choose, your quality of care will be the same. The difference between plans comes down to how much of your medical expenses you’ll be required to pay.
- Healthcare.gov says that you can expect to pay 40% of your healthcare costs with most Bronze plans (and your insurer will cover the other 60%).
- With Platinum plans, on the other hand, you’ll typically pay only 10% of your healthcare expenses (while insurance will cover the other 90%).
However, Platinum plans also have the most expensive monthly premiums. If you’re in good health, you may save money by choosing a Bronze or Silver plan. But if you have an ongoing medical condition, a Gold or Platinum plan may be a better choice.
If you need help filling out your application or signing up for coverage, feel free to set up a phone call with a local Healthcare Navigator. And for more general information about open enrollment and tips for finding the right plan, visit Healthcare.gov.