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13 qualifying life events that trigger ACA special enrollment
Outside of open enrollment, a special enrollment period allows you to enroll in an ACA-compliant plan (on or off-exchange) if you experience a qualifying life event.

Latest News & Topics

Latest News & Topics


Finalized federal rule reduces total duration of short-term health plans to 4 months
A finalized federal rule will impose new nationwide duration limits on short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans. The rule – which applies to plans sold or issued on or after September 1, 2024 – will limit STLDI plans to three-month terms, and to total duration – including renewals – of no more than four months.
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What are the deadlines for the ACA’s open enrollment period?

The annual open enrollment for ACA-compliant health insurance runs from November 1 to January 15 in most states.

Open enrollment for 2022 ACA health insurance was extended. Here's why you might want to enroll by December 15 anyway.

What is the deadline to enroll in 2024 ACA-compliant health insurance coverage in the individual market?

Note: As of mid-February, open enrollment for 2024 coverage has ended everywhere except New York (details below)

Open enrollment for 2024 health coverage began in nearly every state on November 1, 2023. (Some exceptions: It started on October 15 in Idaho, and didn’t start in New York until November 16. In most states, open enrollment for 2024 coverage ended on January 15, 2024 or January 16, 2024, but there are some exceptions, described below.

In most states, December 15 was the deadline to get a plan that takes effect January 1; enrollments completed in the latter half of December and the first half of January will generally take effect February 1 instead. But there are some exceptions to this:

  • In New Jersey, Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Mexico,1 and Nevada,2 coverage took effect on January 1 as long as the application was completed by December 31.
  • In Massachusetts, the deadline for a January 1 effective date was December 23.
  • These deadlines can change from one year to the next, so never assume that your state will allow a January 1 effective date if you enroll after December 15; always double-check, even if that option was available in previous years.

Open enrollment used to end on December 15 in most states, but the Biden-Harris administration added a one-month extension that took effect for the 2022 plan year and will continue to be used from now on (December 15 is still the deadline to get a January 1 effective date). This applies to the 32 states that use HealthCare.gov for 2024. The other 18 states and DC are free to follow that same schedule — most do — or set their own schedule.

But for 2024 coverage, the Biden-Harris administration clarified that open enrollment would continue through January 16, 2024 on HealthCare.gov, due to the federal holiday on January 15. States that run their own exchanges were free to follow suit or not, at their discretion.

What states had a January 16, 2024 deadline to enroll in 2024 coverage?

In 37 states, the deadline to enroll in 2024 individual/family health coverage was January 16, 2024. Nearly all of these states use HealthCare.gov and thus do not have the discretion to set their enrollment dates. However, five (Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, Vermont, and Virginia) run their own enrollment platforms but opted to follow HealthCare.gov’s lead and use the January 16 deadline for 2024 coverage (some were last-minute extensions, while others aligned with HealthCare.gov’s schedule early on). The enrollment deadline was January 16, 2024, in the following states:

What states did NOT use January 16, 2024 as their enrollment deadline for 2024 coverage?

Fully state-run exchanges (there are currently 19 of them) can set their own enrollment deadline, as long as it’s not earlier than December 15. Most of these state-run exchanges follow a November 1 – January 15 schedule. Some opted to add a one-day extension to account for the federal holiday on January 15, while others did not. However, some state-run exchanges have different enrollment windows. Here are the enrollment deadlines for 2024 coverage in the states that have a deadline other than January 16 (deadlines after the end of January are in bold font):

Who can enroll in ACA-compliant health plans year-round?

Year-round enrollment is available for some populations and for some types of health coverage, without a need for a specific qualifying life event. This includes:

CMS finalized a rule in 2021 that allows subsidy-eligible applicants with income up to 150% of the poverty level to enroll year-round, as long as the American Rescue Plan’s subsidy enhancements remain in effect — currently through 2025. (CMS has proposed a rule change that would allow this ongoing enrollment opportunity to continue even if the ARP subsidy enhancements are allowed to expire.)7 This special enrollment period is optional for state-run exchanges, although most of them offer it and some of them extend it to higher income levels due to the availability of additional state-funded subsidies that result in premium-free benchmark plans even at incomes above 150% of the poverty level.

Does Obamacare open enrollment continue through January 15 in all states?

HHS had previously defined open enrollment as the window from November 1 to December 15, but state-run exchanges had the option to offer special enrollment periods before or after that window, to effectively extend open enrollment.

For coverage effective in 2022 and future years, HHS changed the enrollment window for HealthCare.gov. It’s now November 1 through January 15. But instead of requiring state-run exchanges to use an enrollment window at least that long, HHS has given them the option of keeping an earlier deadline, as long as it’s not before December 15. This is why Idaho is allowed to continue to have a mid-December enrollment deadline. But all of the rest of the state-run exchanges have opted to extend their enrollment deadlines to January 15 or later.

(The federal government has proposed a rule change for 2025 and future years that would require all state-run exchanges to have open enrollment periods that extend until at least January 15.7  If finalized, Idaho is the only state this would affect, as the rest already have enrollment windows that continue until January 15 or later.)

Fully state-run exchanges are the only ones with the ability to extend open enrollment on their own. In the other states, the decision has to come from CMS, since the extension has to be issued via HealthCare.gov. Most of them had chosen to offer enrollment windows that extended past December 15 in the years when that was the end of the enrollment window on HealthCare.gov. But now that HHS has extended the HealthCare.gov deadline to January 15, many of the state-run exchanges are using that date rather than issuing additional extensions.

Outside of ACA’s open enrollment window, enrollment is only available with a special enrollment period

After open enrollment ends, people can normally only purchase coverage if they have a special enrollment period (SEP). Most SEPs are triggered by a specific qualifying event such as:

  • Marriage (since 2017, this generally only applies if at least one spouse already had coverage before the wedding, although there are some exceptions),
  • Becoming a U.S. citizen,
  • Birth or adoption,
  • Involuntary loss of other health coverage.
  • A permanent move to an area where new health plans are available (since July 2016, this only applies in most cases if you already had coverage prior to your move).
  • Here’s a complete guide to qualifying events in the individual market, and their associated special enrollment periods. Note that in most cases, special enrollment periods can be used to obtain replacement coverage, but not to go from being uninsured to insured. But some qualifying life events, such as the birth of a baby, will allow a household to obtain new coverage even if they weren’t previously insured.

Regardless of whether you purchase insurance through the exchange or off-exchange, the annual open enrollment window applies, and special enrollment periods are necessary to enroll at any other time of the year.

Open enrollment schedule has varied over time

Although open enrollment is now set at November 1 – January 15 in most states, it has varied quite a bit over the years. In the federally-run marketplaces, the following enrollment windows have been used (with some last-minute extensions, and with somewhat different schedules used by the state-run marketplaces):

  • 2014 coverage: October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014
  • 2015 coverage: November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015
  • 2016 coverage: November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016
  • 2017 coverage: November 1, 2016 through January 31, 2017
  • 2018 coverage: November 1, 2017 through December 15, 2017
  • 2019 coverage: November 1, 2018 through December 15, 2018
  • 2020 coverage: November 1, 2019 through December 15, 2019
  • 2021 coverage: November 1, 2020 through December 15, 2020
  • 2022 coverage: November 1, 2021 through January 15, 2022
  • 2023 coverage: November 1, 2022 through January 15, 2023
  • 2024 coverage: November 1, 2023 through January 16, 2024 (one-day extension due to a federal holiday)

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 insurance marketplace updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.


  1. New Mexico deadline confirmed with New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance in November 2023 
  2. Nevada deadline confirmed via email with Nevada Health Link’s communications department in November 2023 
  3. Covered California Announces More Time to Enroll for Coverage in 2024. Covered California. January 31, 2024. 
  4. Customer Advisory: “In-Line” Enrollment Extension Available through January 17. Connect for Health Colorado. January 2024 
  5. Press Release: On the Tenth Anniversary of New York’s Marketplace, NY State of Health Announces the Beginning of the 2024 Annual Open Enrollment Period for Health Insurance. NY State of Health. November 2023. 
  6. Pennie announcement of a last-minute extension0. January 2024. 
  7. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2025; Updating Section 1332 Waiver Public Notice Procedures; Medicaid; Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) Program; and Basic Health Program” Treasury Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. November 2023.  

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