What’s the deadline to get coverage during Obamacare’s open enrollment period?

In most states, open enrollment begins November 1, and ends December 15, with all plans effective January 1, 2021. Here's what you need to know.

When can you buy health insurance for 2021?


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:

In 2020, there are 13 fully state-run health insurance exchanges. New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey plan to join them in the fall of 2020, bringing the total number of fully state-run exchanges to 16. 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.

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.

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Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment cover illustration

Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment

Table of Contents

What’s in our 2020 Guide to Open Enrollment?
1 What’s the deadline to get coverage during Obamacare’s open enrollment period?
2 How can I choose the best health plan for me?
3 Can I preview premiums before open enrollment?
4 Should I let my 2019 coverage auto-renew?
5 Should you look outside the ACA’s exchanges?
6 Is there still a penalty for being uninsured?
7 How long will it take me to enroll?
8 Who should help me enroll in a health plan?
9 Should I keep my grandmothered health plan?
10 What happens if I don’t buy coverage during the ACA’s open enrollment period?

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