When can you buy health insurance for 2021?
- Open enrollment for 2021 coverage will be Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2020 in most of the states.
- Three state-run exchanges have permanently extended open enrollment.
- Pennsylvania and Nevada have extended open enrollment for 2021 coverage.
- Several other state-run exchanges tend to extend open enrollment each year, and might do so again this year.
Open enrollment dates for 2021 coverage
Open enrollment for ACA-compliant 2021 coverage will run from November 1, 2020 to December 15, 2020 in all states that use HealthCare.gov, and in some of the states that run their own exchanges. This enrollment schedule applies both on and off-exchange.
California, Colorado, and DC have permanently extended their open enrollment periods:
- California: November 1 to January 31
- Colorado: November 1 to January 15
- District of Columbia: November 1 to January 31
In 2020, there are 13 fully state-run health insurance exchanges. Pennsylvania, and New Jersey plan to join them in the fall of 2020, bringing the total number of fully state-run exchanges to 15. All fully state-run exchanges (ie, those that use their own enrollment platforms, instead of HealthCare.gov) have the option to extend open enrollment. And in past years, most of them have done so, by at least a week. We’ll keep track of any updates from those states and post them in our comprehensive overview of Obamacare open enrollment deadlines for 2021 coverage.
- Pennsylvania has already committed to an extended open enrollment period for 2021 coverage, which will run from November 1, 2020 to January 15, 2021.
- Nevada has also committed to an extended open enrollment period for 2021 coverage, which will run from November 1, 2020 to January 15, 2021.
Read our extensive list of frequently asked questions about enrollment
Special enrollment and exceptions
Regardless of whether you purchase insurance through the exchange or off-exchange, the annual Obamacare open enrollment window applies.
You cannot enroll outside of open enrollment unless you have a qualifying event. And the rules for special enrollment periods are stricter than they used to be. In most cases, you’re required to have already had coverage prior to the qualifying event in order to sign up for a new plan as a result of the qualifying event (for example, if you move to a new area, it’s only a qualifying event—allowing you to sign up for a plan in your new area—if you already had coverage in your previous location). The restrictions on special enrollment periods make it more important than ever for people to sign up during open enrollment, when those restrictions don’t apply.
What happens if you don’t buy during open enrollment?
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.