Q. If I didn’t make changes to my plan and just let it auto-renew for January, am I stuck with it for the rest of the year?
A. No, but that will change in a couple years.
Open enrollment for 2017 coverage started on November 1, 2016, and continues until January 31, 2017; you can enroll in a new plan at any time until then.
For 2017 coverage, the deadline to pick a new plan with a January 1 effective date was December 19, 2016. There are likely many people who let their 2016 plans auto-renew and will find out in January that their after-subsidy premium has changed more than they expected it to. There will also be people who find themselves auto-renewed into a similar – but not the same – plan from their carrier, due to their 2016 plan being replaced with a new plan for 2017.
So for 2017 coverage, if you find that you’re no longer happy with your plan in January, you can shop for a new one at that point, as long as you complete your enrollment by January 31. Your new policy’s effective date will be based on the guidelines in your state.
In most states, you need to apply by the 15th of the month to have coverage effective the first of the following month. (There are three states with later deadlines.) So if you enroll in a new plan on January 25th, your new coverage would be effective March 1, and for January and February, you’d continue to have coverage under the plan that was auto-renewed.
But after January 31, the only way you’ll be able to change plans in 2017 is if you have a qualifying event. So don’t wait too long to shop around.
Schedule set to change by 2019
Assuming there are no immediate changes under the Trump Administration, this same schedule will also be in effect for 2018 coverage, with open enrollment continuing through January. The November to January schedule is the same one that was used for 2016 coverage as well.
Starting with 2019 coverage, however, open enrollment will end in mid-December, which means it will no longer be possible to make changes after the start of the year (note that Trump and Congressional Republicans have said that they are planning to repeal the ACA in early 2017, but with repeal implementation pushed out at least two years, and possibly as much as four years).
Under the currently scheduled timeline, starting with 2019 coverage, open enrollment will end December 15 of the prior year. So December 15, 2018, will be the last day to enroll in a plan for 2019 without a qualifying event. That could change by the time late 2018 rolls around, through, so stay tuned for updates.