If I don’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?

Q. If I don’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?

Obamacare open enrollment guide

Our updated Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment offers time-saving strategies for selecting coverage during open enrollment. (Click the image for the latest edition.)

A. No, but that will change in a few years.

Open enrollment for 2017 coverage starts on November 1, 2016, and continues until January 31, 2017; you can enroll in a new plan at any time until then. This will also be the case 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

For 2017, there will likely be many people who auto-renew and then 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.

Read more about why it’s important to shop around and why auto-renewal probably is not your best bet.

Going forward – for 2017 and 2018 only – 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 or 2018 is if you have a qualifying event. So don’t wait too long to shop around.

And 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.

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