Q. If I already enrolled in a plan for the new year, can I change my mind and pick a different plan instead?
A. You can make multiple plan selections during open enrollment, as long as you complete the final plan change by the end of open enrollment. For 2021 coverage, open enrollment continues through December 15, 2020 in most states, although some states have extended deadlines.
After open enrollment ends, you can only make changes to your coverage if you experience a qualifying event.
If your coverage is being terminated because your insurer is exiting the market in your area (New Mexico Health Connections is an example of this), the exchange will pick a new plan for you if you don’t select one yourself during open enrollment. If you have an off-exchange plan, you’ll need to pick your own replacement plan to avoid being uninsured on January 1. But you’ll also qualify for a special enrollment period triggered by loss of coverage. If that applies in your case, you’ll be able to pick a plan other than the one the exchange picked for you, and you’ll have the first 60 days of the new year to make your plan selection (note that HealthCare.gov allows this option, but if you’re enrolled in a plan through a state-run exchange that maps people in this situation to new coverage, you may or may not have a special enrollment period at the start of the new year).
If you enroll in a plan early in open enrollment and then change your mind before open enrollment is over, contact the exchange and follow its instructions for making a plan change. Make a note of who helped you, and get an incident number to keep track of the steps you’ve taken.
Be aware that the cancellation of your existing policy could take a while, especially during open enrollment when the exchanges and carries are very busy. Generally, if you enroll through the exchange, you have to initiate the cancellation request through the exchange, and they’ll transmit it to the carrier. (If you’re enrolled in an off-exchange plan, you’ll submit your cancellation request directly to your carrier.)
If your current premiums are automatically drafted from your bank account, you can request a change to paper billing; in most cases, this can be done directly through the carrier. Then, if there’s a delay in processing your cancellation request, you won’t be inadvertently paying for two plans at the same time.
Make sure you pay any premiums due on the current plan to cover you until the new plan takes effect, so you don’t end up with gaps in coverage.
After the end of open enrollment in your state, you won’t be able to make a plan change for the rest of the year unless you have a qualifying event.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.
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