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What is Open Enrollment

Edward Neeman Published: June 14, 2018 Updated: February 05, 2019

Couple shopping

Fall is football season, the start of the holiday season, and also Open Enrollment season. This is an important time of year for anyone who needs to sign up for health coverage. Here’s what you need to know about it.

What Is It?

The Open Enrollment Period is the time of the year when you can sign up for a new health plan. This particularly applies to health insurance plans purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace which was created by the Affordable Care Act, but other insurance programs have enrollment periods as well.

If you want to signup for a new plan or switch to a different plan, 2019 Open Enrollment this is how you should do that. If you want to keep your current Obamacare plan, you may be automatically enrolled, but you should still use the Open Enrollment period to update your application and review your current plan’s offerings.

What Happens During This Period?

During Open Enrollment, your responsibilities are to shop for a healthcare plan and sign up for it. You can explore the Obamacare plans that are available to you in one of the following ways:

Health Insurance Online

If you are looking for the most convenient way to find health insurance, look online. There are plenty of reputable health insurance comparison websites like First Quote Health that will instantly show you what options are available in your area. You can also check through the health insurance marketplace.

Health Insurance Over the Phone

Sometimes it’s easiest to just talk to an experienced agent, broker or navigator. They will be able to answer all of your questions in real time and help guide you along the way. Call (858) 239-2886 for help finding the right plan for you.

Health Insurance in Person

Yes, people still do talk and meet in person. If you are most comfortable with talking face to face, you can schedule an appointment with your health insurance representative.

Health Insurance Agents and Brokers

Your best bet is to find a health insurance agent or broker that can help you with your health insurance journey.

Once you have considered the options that are available to you, it is time to apply for coverage. You can select a plan and fill out the coverage application. If you qualify for government subsidies to help cover the cost of your plan, you can select how much of your allotment you would like to apply toward your premiums each month. Applications can be made in the following ways:

  • The federal healthcare website or your state’s website.
  • Over the phone.
  • By mail.
  • With the help of an agent or a broker. Fees and premiums are not higher if you opt for this service.

When Is the Enrollment Period?

To sign up for a 2019 Obamacare plan through the federal Marketplace or your state’s exchange, the enrollment period is November 1 through December 15, 2018. Affordable Care Act plans selected during this period go into effect on January 1, 2019.

This enrollment period also applies to individual plans that are offered outside of the Marketplace but still meet the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines for essential minimum coverage. If you do not qualify for subsidies, you may want to consider one of these plans outside the Marketplace. Other types of plans have different enrollment periods:

  • Medicare: October 15-December 7, 2018.
  • Medicaid: Enrollment is year-round.
  • Employer-sponsored plans: Usually in the fall, but exact dates vary among employers.

Are There Exceptions?

If you have a major life event during 2019, you will be able to sign up for a plan within a set time period after that event. For Obamacare plans, this period is 60 days, but some separate insurance plans offer shorter windows. This is called a Special Enrollment Period. To qualify, you must have a major life change in 2019, such as one of the following Qualifying Life Events:

  • Losing coverage on your parents’ plan when you turn 26 years of age.
  • Getting married.
  • Getting divorced.
  • Having a baby.
  • Adopting a child.
  • Losing a job.
  • Moving to a new place.
  • Being released from jail or prison.

What If I Miss It?

It is important to sign up during Open Enrollment or you risk missing out on health insurance coverage for 2019. Not only will you be uninsured, but you will face penalties for not carrying health insurance.

If you do miss the enrollment window, you may have an upcoming Qualifying Life Event that would give you the opportunity to sign up for insurance. If not, consider one of the following options:

  • Sign up for short-term or catastrophic coverage. You will still be fined for not having insurance, but you may be covered if something major happens to you or your family members.
  • Look into whether you qualify for Medicaid.

If you miss out on signing up for a Marketplace plan during 2019 Open Enrollment, you can still qualify for one next year, or compare your options in the private sector which may surprise you. Health coverage is important for taking care of yourself, however, so be sure to sign up during 2019 Open Enrollment.