What is Open Enrollment? Everything You Need to Know

Navigating health insurance can be daunting. In this post, we detail everything you need for understanding open enrollment.

what is open enrollment?

When it comes to thinking about health care in the United States, it can be pretty overwhelming. One of the biggest grey areas that comes to mind is open enrollment and the details surrounding it. Most people don’t know what it means and if they do, the times when they can and can’t enroll in health care coverage is the next confusing hurdle. But it doesn’t have to be. Continue reading to find everything you need for understanding open enrollment.

What is Open Enrollment?

As Healthcare.gov explains, open enrollment is “the yearly period when people can enroll in a health insurance plan.” Every insurance provider has different enrollment periods, so check with your HR department at your job or call your insurance company to learn more about how your private insurance works. As VeryWellHealth explains, though, most private insurance enrollment periods are in the fall, so keep a lookout for information from your insurance provider as the leaves start to change.

If you have health insurance through the government, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—there is now a nation-wide open enrollment period during which both individuals and families can enroll, renew, or change their health insurance coverage at the same time.

How Long is Open Enrollment?

The open enrollment window can vary in length, but it is often at least a few weeks long. When it comes to the ACA, open enrollment typically takes place at the end of the calendar year before plan coverage starts, usually in November and December. For example, open enrollment for 2018 took place in November and December of 2017 and the same will happen this year—open enrollment for 2019 is slated to run from November 1st to December 15th, 2018.

However, some states have elected to extend the national enrollment period, so check with your state to find out exactly how long you have to enroll. As you begin your OE investigation, check out 3 quick tips for open enrollment success.

How Do I Enroll During Open Enrollment?

How you enroll in a new health insurance plan all depends on what you’re trying to do. If you want to keep the same plan you currently have, you can simply do nothing—your plan will automatically renew and remain as is. If you want to make changes to your plan, select a different one, or just sign up for coverage in the first place, you’ll need to bring this up with your employer (likely your HR department) if you have job-based insurance. If you have government-sponsored insurance, log onto Healthcare.gov to access your current plan details.

Can I Sign Up for Health Insurance After Open Enrollment?

The short answer is yes and the long answer is it depends on your situation. If you simply missed the open enrollment period and want to sign up later, you’ll likely be out of luck and stuck with whatever plan you currently have until the next year’s open enrollment period comes around.

However, if the open enrollment period has passed but you experience one (or more) of a handful of life events that impact your coverage, you can qualify for a Special Enrollment Period, which is essentially just the ability to select or change your health insurance outside of the enrollment period.

Common life events that qualify for a Special Enrollment Period include:

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Having a baby
  • Losing your current coverage
  • Aged out of your parent’s plan – (break down the difference between HMO v. PPO)
  • Becoming a widower or widow

Enrolling in a new plan, updating family changes and managing benefits as a whole doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. Zenefits’ HR software makes it simple to understand, track and manage your critical personal information – connect with a consultant today to learn more.

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