What Is Open Enrollment?

by Team eLocal
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Not having health insurance or getting stuck with a plan you hate can be a nightmare. You might get trapped in a plan that's too expensive, or that doesn't offer the coverage you need. Understanding open enrollment can help you get affordable health insurance that's right for you.

What Is an Open Enrollment Period for Health Insurance?

An open enrollment period is a set period of time each year when people are able to get a new medical insurance plan. Healthcare plans can also be changed, adjusted or canceled during open enrollment.

People who want to purchase health insurance through the marketplace usually need to do so during open enrollment. There are exceptions for those who experience a life-changing event, such as changing jobs or getting divorced. These people may qualify for a special enrollment period.

You may be able to start receiving Medicare benefits or health insurance through an employer outside of open enrollment. However, you'll still need to use open enrollment to make adjustments to your insurance.

What Kind of Insurance Uses Open Enrollment?

Medical insurance plans that can be purchased on the healthcare marketplace under the Affordable Care Act use open enrollment. Employer health plans also use open enrollment periods. Insurance provided by an employer usually starts after the employee accepts a job or has worked at the company for a certain amount of time. However, employees still need to use an open enrollment period to make adjustments to their plans. Many Medicaid plans, especially those for adults, use open enrollment as well.

Medicare also uses open enrollment. The period when a person can first sign up for Medicare is called an Initial Enrollment Period and is linked to a beneficiary's 65th birthday. In addition to IEPs, Medicare uses an annual open enrollment period when enrollees can make changes to their Medicare plans. Beneficiaries using Medicare Advantage plans or who want to sign up for a Part D plan may need to use an open enrollment period.

When Is Open Enrollment?

Medicare's open enrollment period is from October 15th through December 7th every year. The open enrollment period for marketplace plans is usually November 1st through January 15th. If you're thinking of buying health insurance or changing your plan, be sure to double-check the relevant open enrollment periods for changes.

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