When Is Open Enrollment on Health Insurance Exchanges?

Don't let the next Obamacare open enrollment slip by without signing up for health insurance on your health insurance exchange. Image © JupiterImages/Getty Images

You can’t sign up for an Obamacare health plan on your state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange whenever you want. Instead, there’s a limited open enrollment period during which you can sign up for a new plan or change your current plan.

If you miss Obamacare open enrollment, you may have to wait until the next year’s open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance.

So, When Is My Next Chance to Get Health Insurance?

The open enrollment period for 2015 health insurance coverage from the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges ended February 15, 2015.

However, the federal exchange at HealthCare.gov is permitting a one-time special enrollment opportunity for those who discover they must pay the penalty for being uninsured in 2014 and didn't know about it. This one-time special enrollment period coincides with tax-filing season and runs from March 15, 2015, through April 30, 2015. Some, but not all, state-run health insurance exchanges have opted to provide this same special enrollment period.

Open enrollment for 2016 begins November 1, 2015, and ends January 31, 2016.

Open enrollment for 2017 and beyond runs from October 1 through December 15 of the year before.

For example, if you want health insurance coverage starting January 1, 2018, you can sign up for that coverage anytime between October 1, 2017, and December 15, 2017.

When Will My Coverage Start If I Sign Up During Next Open Enrollment?

For 2016:

  • Sign up by December 15, 2015; coverage starts January 1, 2016.
  • Sign up December 16, 2015, to January 15, 2016; coverage starts February 1, 2016.
  • Sign up January 16, 2016, to January 31, 2016; coverage starts March 1, 2016.

For 2017 and beyond, sign up any time during open enrollment and your coverage will start on January 1 of the following year.

What If I Miss Open Enrollment?

If you miss open enrollment on your health insurance exchange, you won’t be able to sign up until the next open enrollment period unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

Learn how to qualify for a special enrollment period, and learn what you’re in for if you don’t get a special enrollment period in “I Missed Obamacare Open Enrollment. What Now?

If you’re losing your current health insurance and it’s not Obamacare open enrollment, you don't have to go without health insurance. To learn your options, check out “Lost Your Health Insurance? Not Obamacare Open Enrollment? What Now?

If you currently have health insurance you bought on your health insurance exchange but missed open enrollment for the upcoming year, you've neglected to sign up for health insurance next year.  You could be in luck, though; your current health plan might be automatically renewed, preventing you from being uninsured next year. Learn more about this in "What Is Automatic Renewal of Health Insurance & How Does It Work?" and "Weighing the Pros & Cons of Automatic Health Insurance Renewal."


 13838 Federal Register Vol. 79, No. 47, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, Rules and Regulations.  Accessed on April 6, 2014, at  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-03-11/pdf/2014-05052.pdf#page=96

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2016 accessed on April 5, 2015, at http://www.federalregister.gov/a/2015-03751/p-636

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45: Public Welfare, PART 155—EXCHANGE ESTABLISHMENT STANDARDS AND OTHER RELATED STANDARDS UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, Subpart E—Exchange Functions in the Individual Market: Enrollment in Qualified Health Plans, §155.410   Initial and annual open enrollment periods. Accessed on April 6, 2014, at http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=&SID=9045f9b1c870e10cb2133b1ee0e9315d&r=PART&n=45y1.

Continue Reading