Q: If I sign up for a bronze plan during open enrollment, can I bump my coverage up to a higher level several months later if I find out that I need surgery?
A: No. After open enrollment ends, you won’t be able to change your policy until the next open enrollment period. A 60-day open enrollment window can also be triggered on an individual basis by a qualifying event, but a change in health status is not a qualifying event.
Open enrollment for 2017 and 2018 coverage will run from November 1 to January 31, with open enrollment starting in the fall of the prior year. For coverage effective in 2019 and beyond, open enrollment will be much shorter, running from November 1 to December 15 of the prior year.
Open enrollment and special enrollment periods triggered by qualifying events apply both on and off-exchange (with the exception of Nevada, where off-exchange plans are available year-round, albeit with a waiting period). So regardless of whether you buy your plan through the exchange or outside the exchange, you won’t have an opportunity to switch to a different plan until the following year (via open enrollment) unless you experience a qualifying event.