When Is Open Enrollment on Health Insurance Exchanges?

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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 (note that these limited open enrollment windows also apply outside the exchanges; you can't enroll in a plan outside the exchange whenever you want).

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 2017 health insurance coverage from the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges (and off-exchange coverage) continues until January 31, 2017. 

Open enrollment for 2018 begins November 1, 2017, and ends January 31, 2018.

Open enrollment for 2019 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 November 1, 2017, and January 31, 2018. But in future years, you'll have to make your plan selection by December 15, and won't be able to change your plan after the coming year begins.

These dates are all according to what's currently scheduled as of early 2017.

A lot could change about the ACA and how health insurance is purchased under the Trump Administration, however.

But assuming the currently-scheduled enrollment period for 2019 does take place as scheduled, it will be more important than ever for people to actively return to the exchange during open enrollment to renew or change their coverage, rather than relying on auto-renewal.

Starting in 2019, it won't be possible to pick a different plan if you decide in January that you don't like the coverage onto which the exchange auto-renewed you onto (auto-renewal doesn't always mean you keep the same plan you already had; if it's being discontinued, the exchange can map you to the most similar plan available in your area).

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

For 2017, in most states:

  • If you signed up by December 19 (this was an extension of the normal December 15 deadline), your coverage started January 1, 2017.
  • Sign up December 16, 2016, to January 15, 2017; coverage starts February 1, 2017.
  • Sign up January 16, 2017, to January 31, 2017; coverage starts March 1, 2017.

Three states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington) have normal enrollment deadlines of the 23rd of the month, so people there can enroll as late as January 23 and have coverage effective February 1.

For 2019 coverage and beyond, sign up any time during open enrollment (November 1 through December 15) 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 (or outside the 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 had health insurance you bought on your health insurance exchange for 2016 but didn't return to the exchange by December 19 to renew or change your coverage for 2017, your coverage was probably automatically renewed.

If your plan was being discontinued for 2017, your exchange may have picked a new plan for you, preventing you from being uninsured as of January 1. 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."

Updated by Louise Norris.

Sources:

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. 

Federal Register Vol. 79, No. 47. Rules and Regulations, page 13838. March 11, 2014,

Federal Register, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2016. February 27, 2015.

Federal Register. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2017. March 8, 2016.

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