Chapter 5: How long will it take you to enroll

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Chapter 5: Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment

How long will it take you to enroll?

Exchanges have worked out most of the bugs that slow enrollment. Here’s how you can speed up your own search for the right plan.

  • By
  • contributor
  • April 29, 2016

The Insider's Guide to Obamacare's Open Enrollment 2016-2017 EditionDuring Obamacare’s first open enrollment period, there was no shortage of media reports about the agonizing delays and online crashes that slowed users’ exchange enrollment – or brought it to a complete standstill.

But Round 2 was much smoother, and round three was so smooth that there were very few extensions issued at the end of open enrollment in 2016. Most people had their enrollments sorted out prior to the start of the year; enrollment during January 2016 was relatively light.

So … how long will it take to enroll?

The enrollment process will vary from one applicant to another. If you’re already enrolled in 2016 and are considering switching to a new plan for 2017, it will be relatively quick – especially if you have someone helping you compare the available options.

But if you’re enrolling for the first time and need to create an account with the exchange, expect to set aside at least 30 to 60 minutes to complete the process.

How you can speed up the process

And to make the process as smooth and fast as possible, make sure you have the following information available when you begin your enrollment:

  1. Names, address, social security numbers, birthdays, citizenship status and email address. Most of this information will be needed for all family members who will be included on the application.
  2. Household size and income. (A pay stub, W2 or 2015 tax return will help make this info as precise as possible.)
  3. Coverage details and premium for any employer-sponsored plan available to you or anyone in your household.
  4. Payment information (bank account or credit card) to submit the first month’s premium either to the exchange or directly to the carrier once you’ve enrolled.
  5. Your doctors’ names and zip codes, so you can check the networks in your area and make sure your doctors are included. You’ll also want to verify which local hospitals are on the networks of the plans you’re considering.

Pick up the phone

If you’re not comfortable applying online – or if you do have difficulties setting up an account or completing the online application, you can enroll by phone. You could even have someone on the phone to help you go through the process of completing a paper application.

Health and Human Services (HHS) phone application and enrollment support is available 24/7 at 1-800-318-2596. State-based exchanges also have call centers that offer assistance by phone.

Some online health portals – hailed as source of quick health insurance quotes – are now devoting more resources to phone support, with agents licensed in each state to help customers through the enrollment process. (You can call one of’s partners at 1-844-608-2739 to talk with a licensed, exchange-certified brokers who can enroll you in an ACA-compliant plan.)

Ask for a helping hand

As always, if you’d prefer get help in person, your state exchange site or can help you find someone who can provide in-person help in your area.