Auto-renewed your health plan and want to change your mind?

If your health plan was auto-renewed, you can still pick a new one

If you've been auto-enrolled in a health plan for 2016, there's still time to select a different plan
Did the exchange auto-renew your health plan? You've still got time to pick your own plan for 2016. Westend61/Getty Images

Last week, health plans for several million people were automatically renewed by exchanges all across the country. In most cases, these people have been re-enrolled in the same plan they had for 2015, but the premium will be different in 2016. Nearly 84% of exchange enrollees qualify for premium subsidies, and in most cases those will be different in 2016 as well. 

In some cases, enrollees have been automatically re-enrolled in different plans if their current plan will no longer be available in 2016.

This is certainly better than the alternative of simply not having coverage at all as of January. But the fact that plan designs can be phased out from one year to the next makes it particularly important for consumers to return to the exchange during open enrollment to make sure that they have an opportunity to pick their own coverage for the coming year. 

Most enrollees actively selected 2016 plan

In 38 states, applicants use to enroll in individual (non-group) health insurance. By December 18, more than half of's enrollees from 2015 had returned to the exchange to shop and select a plan for 2016. But there were still likely more than three million people enrolled through whose plans were auto-renewed, plus enrollees in the 13 state-run exchanges who didn't return to actively select a plan for 2016.

You've still got time to pick your own plan

Although the deadline to pick a plan for January has passed in most states, open enrollment will continue until the end of January.

If you return to the exchange by January 15 to select a different plan for the coming year, the new coverage will take effect February 1 (in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington state, you've got until December 23 to pick a plan for January, and then you'll have until January 23 to pick a plan for February; in Minnesota, you've got until December 28 to pick a plan for January 1, although plans for February 1 will still need to be selected by January 15).


If you return to the exchange in the second half of January, you'll still have a chance to select a different plan for 2016, with coverage effective March 1. 

If your plan was auto-renewed and you pick a different plan to start in February or March, your auto-renewed coverage will be in force until your new plan takes effect. In that case, your premium will change as of January (to reflect the price on the plan onto which you were auto-enrolled) and it will then change again in February or March to reflect the plan that you've selected for the remainder of the year.

Auto-renewal not available for everyone

Some enrollees weren't eligible for auto-renewal. There's a section in my open enrollment ebook that explains the details, but essentially auto-renewal wasn't available for enrollees who are receiving a premium subsidy and either didn't file a tax return for last year, didn't reconcile their premium subsidy on their tax return, or didn't give the exchange permission to get updated tax return data.

Auto-renewal also wasn't available for people whose health plan is exiting the market altogether. This includes several hundred thousand CO-OP members in ten states, Assurant members in every state, and members of any other insurance plan that has announced it will exit the market at the end of the year. 

If your health plan isn't going to be offering any plans in 2016 and your coverage is ending altogether on December 31, you must actively select a new plan in order to maintain coverage in the new year (Health Republic members in New York were eligible for auto-enrollment onto a new plan for December and can opt to keep their new plan for 2016, albeit with a new price as of January).

Losing coverage on 12/31? Request a special enrollment period

But if your health plan is being terminated on December 31, you've still got time to pick a plan for 2016 and have the coverage effective January 1, regardless of where you live. That's because the loss of your current plan is considered a qualifying event, and it triggers a special enrollment period that happens to overlap with the general open enrollment period for 2016.

Loss of coverage is one of two qualifying events (the other is marriage) that allows you to enroll up until the last day of the month and still get an effective date of the first of the following month. That means if your health plan is ending on December 31, you can enroll in a new plan as late as December 31 and your new coverage will take effect January 1. But it's essential that you indicate that you're enrolling using a special enrollment period triggered by loss of coverage, instead of the general open enrollment period (using the latter would result in coverage effective February 1 instead of January 1).

If your plan is being terminated, your special enrollment period continues for 60 days after the date your plan ends. That means you've actually got until the end of February to pick a new plan if your old one ends December 31. You'll have a gap in coverage if you enroll after December 31. But even if you enroll at the end of February, your new plan will be effective March 1 and you won't be subject to the ACA's penalty for being uninsured as long as you maintain your coverage for the remainder of the year. 

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