Between television ads, radio commercials, healthcare professionals, and small talk between colleagues, you’ve probably heard people talking about the upcoming “open enrollment” period for several weeks now. But what exactly is open enrollment, and why is it important?
What is open enrollment?
Put simply, open enrollment is the period of time established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during which you can apply for health insurance coverage and be guaranteed coverage if you’re eligible. The following types of insurance require you to apply by an open enrollment deadline:
- Medicare: October 15 – December 7 every year
- Group health insurance (like plans offered through your employer): Dates are determined by your employer
- Individual plans administered by the ACA: November 1 – December 15, 2018 for coverage beginning January 1, 2019.
During open enrollment, health insurance companies cannot underwrite your application or require you to provide financial or medical information that could jeopardize your chances of getting health insurance (Note: Medicare Advantage plans do have 1 health question).
What happens if I miss open enrollment?
If you qualify for a special enrollment period…
Special enrollment periods allow you to obtain health insurance outside of the standard open enrollment if your circumstances meet one of the following criteria to be eligible for special enrollment:
- Loss of job and/or expiration of COBRA coverage
- Moved to a new coverage area
- Recently divorced or married
- Recently became a widow or widower
- Aged out of your parents’ coverage
- Recently had a baby
If you’ve recently experienced one or more of the above “qualifying life events,” you may still be able to apply for coverage outside of open enrollment.
If you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period…
If you’re unable to get coverage during a special enrollment period, you may want to consider short-term health insurance until you’re eligible for a major medical plan.