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Health Insurance Glossary

Definitions for common health insurance terms

open enrollment


ACA open enrollment guide

The Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment offers time-saving strategies for selecting coverage during open enrollment. (Click the image for a free download.)

Open enrollment is a window during which individuals and employees may add or drop their health insurance, or make changes to their coverage. Under the ACA, individual health insurance has open enrollment windows, which apply both in and out of the exchanges (prior to 2014, people could apply at any time, but had to go through medical underwriting).

General open enrollment in the individual market for 2018 coverage runs from November 1, 2017 through December 15, 2017, with all plans effective January 1, 2018. This is a shorter window than originally scheduled, and the new time frame was laid out in the market stabilization rule that HHS finalized in April 2017. State-run exchanges that use their own enrollment platform have some flexibility in terms of open enrollment dates for 2018 coverage; Colorado announced that their open enrollment will be longer than other states for 2018 coverage.

Individual market open enrollment in every state (including states like Colorado that extend the open enrollment window for 2018 coverage) is scheduled to use the November 1 to December 15 window for 2019 coverage and beyond. Even if the ACA is eventually changed via legislation, the new structure would continue to need an open enrollment window, as it’s politically untenable to return to the days when eligibility for individual market coverage was based on medical history in nearly every state (under that sort of system, there’s no need for open enrollment, as sick people are unable to obtain coverage in the individual market). The November 1 – December 15 open enrollment window (or something similar) is thus likely to remain in place, regardless of changes made to the ACA.

Read more about open enrollment

What’s the deadline to get coverage…

September 14, 2017 – Q. What is the deadline to enroll in health insurance coverage for 2018? A. Open enrollment for 2018 coverage will begin on November 1,… Read more

What are the ACA’s enrollment periods…

September 14, 2017 – Q: What are the Affordable Care Act enrollment periods and when can I enroll outside of the open enrollment period? Open enrollment for… Read more

If I don’t enroll in a plan by the open enrollment deadline, what are my options after that?

If I don’t enroll in a plan by the…

August 14, 2017 – Q. If I don't enroll in a health insurance plan by the end of open enrollment (December 15), what options will I have? A. In most cases,… Read more

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?

If I don’t make changes to my plan and…

July 10, 2017 – 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? A. Starting in… Read more

If you missed Obamacare's open enrollment, you still have options.

Miss open enrollment? You’ve got…

June 29, 2017 – Open enrollment for 2018 will run from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017. Outside of those dates, enrollment on and off the exchange is… Read more