When is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance?

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Are you exploring your health insurance options? If so, you might have heard of the open enrollment period. Here’s Benzinga’s guide to open enrollment to help you understand what it is and the options you have.

The Best Health Insurance:

Open Enrollment Period

So, when is open enrollment for health insurance? Typically, the open enrollment period to enroll in a new health insurance policy happens at the end of the calendar year.

For example, the open enrollment period for 2020 ran from November 1, 2019, to December 15, 2019. If you enrolled in a plan during this open enrollment period, your health insurance plan coverage was eligible to begin on January 1, 2020. 

How to Sign Up During Open Enrollment

It can be confusing to know how to get health insurance. During the open enrollment period, you can enroll in a health insurance plan through the Marketplace. The Marketplace is a service that can help you find, compare and enroll in affordable health insurance plans. 

To enroll in a health plan using the Marketplace, you must:

  • Live in the United States
  • Be either a U.S. citizen or national

You are not eligible for a health insurance plan through the Marketplace if you:

  • Are incarcerated
  • Have Medicare coverage

Most people use the Marketplace to find affordable health insurance. It’s operated by the federal government for most states, although other states run their own Marketplace.

You can enroll in a plan during open enrollment in a few different ways:

No matter which way you choose to enroll, you must submit information about your household and income. This information will be used to determine the types of plans you are eligible for. You may be eligible for premium tax credits and other savings to make your plan more affordable. You may also qualify for coverage through Medicaid and/or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in your state.

If you own a small business, you may be eligible for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). This program can allow you to offer affordable health insurance coverage to your employees. 

If you are already enrolled in your employer’s health insurance program, you should speak with your employer about continuing coverage. Your employer will be responsible for signing you up for coverage under an employer-sponsored health plan.

What Happens if You Don’t Sign Up?

If you don’t sign up for a health insurance plan during the open enrollment period, you may not be able to receive coverage for the upcoming year. In some cases, your state may extend the enrollment deadline. It’s important to check with your state to see what other options you may have. In most states, if you miss the open enrollment period, you’re at risk of being uninsured in the upcoming year. 

If your circumstances change at any point throughout the year, you may be able to purchase a new health insurance plan. This is called a special enrollment period. You may also be eligible for premium subsidies if you are an eligible applicant. You must experience a qualifying event. See some qualifying events below.

Loss of Health Coverage

If you lose your health insurance at any point during the year, you may be able to access the special enrollment period. There are a few reasons you might lose health coverage. You may become unemployed and lose your employer-sponsored health insurance plan. Another is if you turn 26 and no longer qualify to be on your parents’ health insurance plan.

Change in Household Status

If there is a change within your household, you may be eligible to enroll in health insurance outside of the open enrollment period. Some of these changes may include getting married or divorced, having or adopting a child and a death in the family.

Change in Income or Residence

If there is a change in your residence, you may have to change your health insurance plan. 

If your income greatly increases or decreases, your qualification for your current health insurance plan may change. 

Become a U.S. Citizen

If you become a citizen of the United States outside of the open enrollment period, you will need access to a new health insurance plan.

Leave Incarceration

Ending your time in jail or prison is a qualifying life event that will allow you to enroll in a health plan outside of the open enrollment period.

Medicaid/CHIP Eligibility

If you qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), you can enroll in coverage at any time of the year. You will also be eligible for a special enrollment period if there is a change during the year that makes you no longer eligible for these programs. 

If you become eligible for an employer-sponsored health plan at some point throughout the year, you will be able to enroll in your employer’s plan at that time. If none of these options are available to you, your options for health coverage outside of the open enrollment period are limited.

You may be able to receive coverage from policies that are not regulated by the Affordable Care Act. Most of these plans are designed to provide supplemental coverage and not intended to act as your only health coverage. Some of these options are:

  • Farm Bureau plans: If you are a member of the Farm Bureau and live in Kansas, Tennessee or Iowa, this may be an option for you.
  • Health care sharing ministry plans: These are faith-based nonprofit organizations that pool members’ money to share each other’s medical expenses. 
  • Short term health plans: Short term health plans are an option for coverage if you need to shore up the gap between your current plan and the next plan. 

5 Best Health Insurance Companies for Open Enrollment

Ready to find the best health insurance possible? Here are a few of our favorite options.

1. Best for Provider Network: BlueCross BlueShield

BlueCross BlueShield offers coverage to residents across all 50 states. This means that it can offer you a large provider network. The company partners with local health care companies in different states.

The company you work with directly depends on which state you live in. For this reason, customer service can vary across its local partner companies. Overall, this insurance company is a great choice because it’s accepted at a large number of doctors’ offices and medical facilities.

2. Best for Affordability: Humana

Humana offers a number of affordable health insurance options that work for its members. Most of its affordable plans are health maintenance organization (HMO) plans. This means that you can only receive coverage for visits with providers in Humana’s network.

Since Humana is a large health insurance company with a wide range of participating providers, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. Humana provides competitive pricing on its premiums, no matter your age.

3. Best for Wellness Programs: Molina Healthcare

Molina Healthcare offers several policy tiers to meet the needs of all customers. This health insurance company is only available in select states, so its network of providers is more limited than some of the other health insurance companies. However, Molina is unique in a couple of different ways.

It offers physical clinics and health centers in the states where its coverage is available. It also offers a number of wellness services to help its members make healthy decisions. For example, Molina Healthcare offers discounts for weight loss and smoking cessation programs.

4. Best for Health Savings Plans: Aetna

Aetna offers a wide range of health insurance plans. Whether you’re seeking an individual, family or employer plan, Aetna likely has an attractive option for you. It also offers Medicare plans for qualified individuals.

You can also enroll in a health savings plan with Aetna. You can combine it with a high-deductible health plan to help you save money on any medical expenses you have. 

5. Best for Short Term Insurance Options: National General

Are you in need of a short term insurance option? You may want to check out National General. This company has been around since 1920 and specializes in short term policies.

It offers coverage for many routine medical needs, such as doctor visits, diagnostic testing and visits to emergency rooms and urgent care facilities. It also offers a quick turnaround time so you can get covered sooner rather than later. National General’s policies do tend to have premiums that are higher than average, but it can offer good coverage if you’re short on options.

Why is Open Enrollment Important?

You probably want to take advantage of the open enrollment period if you’re enrolling in a health plan for yourself or your family. You can find out if you’re eligible for savings on your health insurance by filling out an application for health insurance in the Marketplace. If you don’t use the open enrollment period, you may be unable to enroll in a health insurance plan until the following year. To be sure you have the chance to enroll, keep an eye out for the open enrollment period. It typically occurs within the last few months of every calendar year.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Q: Is health insurance required?

1) Q: Is health insurance required?

The federal mandate that required health insurance has been lifted but some states have enacted state-level mandates that require residents to have health insurance. Even where not required, health insurance can protect your family against catastrophic healthcare costs and help make routine medical expenses more predictable. Get your most affordable quote through our top providers today.


2) Q: What does health insurance cover?

2) Q: What does health insurance cover?

Most health insurance plans provide the 10 essential health benefits that were part of Obamacare requirements. Coverages include preventive and wellness services, prescription drug coverage, emergency services, ambulatory services, lab services, pediatric services, and more. Many plans cover a wider range of healthcare expenses but may cost more than basic plans or may have higher out-of-pocket costs for some services.Get a custom health insurance quote to cover you and your family today.


3) Q: How can I save money on health insurance?

3) Q: How can I save money on health insurance?

For healthcare plans that comply with the Affordable Care Act, only a handful of rating factors affect your premium. These include age and location, at least one of which can’t be changed. Smokers will pay more in most cases and your choice of plan level can affect premiums as well. Choosing a high deductible health insurance plan can reduce the cost of premiums. These plans can be combined with a health savings account to take advantage of tax-free savings for healthcare expenses. Get the cheapest health insurance premium from top providers.


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