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ACA Open Enrollment 2022 Guide

Everything you need to know to enroll in an affordable individual-market health insurance plan during the 2022 open enrollment period

What is ACA open enrollment?

Open enrollment is the annual window during which individuals and families may sign up for ACA-compliant individual and family health insurance – or make changes to their existing coverage. It’s the only time during the year – other than a special enrollment period – that Americans can sign up for a plan or switch to a different health plan.

For millions of Americans, this year’s open enrollment period was unlike any other, as more consumers than ever are eligible for premium tax credits – health insurance subsidies that substantially lower the cost of insurance. The American Rescue Plan (ARP), signed into law in 2021, included subsidy enhancements that allow an unprecedented number of Americans to qualify for premium tax credits and that increase the amount of the subsidies.

And for 2022, continuing a trend that's been ongoing for the last few years, more carriers have entered or expanded their presence in ACA’s marketplaces, increasing health plan options for consumers around the country. These insurer entries can also result in changing benchmark premiums, however, which can change premium subsidy amounts. Here’s what you need to know about how that works.

When is open enrollment for 2022 health coverage?

Open enrollment for 2022 health coverage began nationwide on November 1, 2021. In the majority of the states, it continued through at least January 15, 2022, although it ended in Idaho on December 22.

(Note that although Colorado’s open enrollment period officially ended on January 15 and is listed with that deadline below, the Colorado exchange is allowing residents to call the exchange until January 19 in order to enroll, and is also offering a special enrollment period, through March 16, for uninsured residents affected by the COVID pandemic or the Marshall Fire).

Enrollments in most states needed to be completed by December 15, 2021 in order to have a plan that takes effect January 1, although several states gave residents until December 31 to sign up for a plan with a January 1 effective date. In nearly every state, enrollments completed after December 15 but before the end of open enrollment will have February 1 effective dates, although DC, Kentucky, and New York will assign a March 1 effective date to applications submitted in the second half of January (DC, KY, and NY are among the handful of state-run exchanges that have enrollment windows that extend through the end of January).

For most Americans, open enrollment is the only opportunity to enroll in an ACA-compliant health plan without needing a qualifying life event.


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State Open Enrollment Period for 2022 Coverage
AlabamaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
AlaskaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
ArizonaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
ArkansasNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
CaliforniaNovember 1, 2021 - January 31, 2022
ColoradoNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
ConnecticutNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
District of ColumbiaNovember 1, 2021 - January 31, 2022
DelawareNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
FloridaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
GeorgiaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
HawaiiNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
IdahoNovember 1, 2021 - December 22, 2022
IllinoisNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
IndianaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
IowaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
KansasNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
KentuckyNovember 1, 2021 - January 31, 2022
LouisianaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
MaineNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
MarylandNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
MassachusettsNovember 1, 2021 - January 23, 2022
MichiganNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
MinnesotaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
MississippiNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
MissouriNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
MontanaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
NebraskaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
NevadaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
New HampshireNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
New JerseyNovember 1, 2021 - January 31, 2022
New MexicoNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
New YorkNovember 1, 2021 - January 31, 2022
North CarolinaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
North DakotaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
OhioNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
OklahomaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
OregonNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
PennsylvaniaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
Rhode IslandNovember 1, 2021 - January 31, 2022
South CarolinaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
South DakotaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
TennesseeNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
TexasNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
UtahNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
VermontNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
VirginiaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
WashingtonNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
West VirginiaNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
WisconsinNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022
WyomingNovember 1, 2021 - January 15, 2022

Frequently asked questions about ACA open enrollment

You can enroll in a health insurance plan online, over the phone, or in-person (in most states, enrollment in 2022 coverage now requires a qualifying life event; open enrollment for 2023 coverage will start November 1, 2022).

Regardless of the method, if you’re enrolling in a plan through the exchange, you’re going to need to have the following information on hand for each enrollee:

  • Payment information that the insurer will be able to use to charge your premiums.
  • A list of medications taken by anyone who will be covered under the policy. Each insurance plan has its own formulary (covered drug list), so you’ll want to check to see which one will best cover the medications you need.
  • Your doctors’ names and zip codes, so that you can check to make sure they’re in-network with the health plans you’re considering.
  • Coverage details and premium for any employer-sponsored plan that’s available to your household (regardless of whether you’re enrolled in that plan or have declined it).
  • If you want to enroll in a catastrophic plan and you’re 30 or older, you’ll need hardship exemption (note that premium subsidies cannot be used with catastrophic plans, so these are generally only a good idea if you don’t qualify for a premium subsidy, but can meet the requirements for a hardship exemption).

In most cases, your coverage selected during open enrollment takes effect on January 1. But in most states, enrollments completed after December 15 will have coverage effective February 1. And in DC and New York, plans selected in the latter half of January will have coverage effective March 1 (DC and NY are among a handful of state-run exchanges that have enrollment deadlines after mid-January).

If you were already enrolled in an individual-market plan and you picked a different plan during open enrollment (in most cases, by December 15), your previous plan ended on December 31 and your new plan took effect seamlessly on January 1 (assuming you paid all of your premiums when they were due).

Although open enrollment ended on January 15 in most states, DC and several states have extended open enrollment deadlines that allow people to sign up for coverage after January 15; see details for your state here).

If you’re currently uninsured and waiting for a plan to take effect, a short-term medical plan can bridge the gap for you, as long as you’re fairly healthy. Short-term plans are available in most states, and the coverage can take effect as soon as the day after you purchase your plan. So a short-term plan can provide peace of mind just in case you end up with an unexpected emergency before your new coverage takes effect. (You can select your state on this page to see how short-term plans are regulated and which options are available to you).

But note that short-term plans should not be thought of as a viable replacement for regular individual major medical coverage. If you’re relying on one temporarily, you’ll definitely want to sign up for an ACA-compliant plan during open enrollment.

If you enroll during the open enrollment period but you also have a qualifying event, you may be able to get coverage before the start of 2022. For example, if you got married and applied for coverage in November, you could have had a December 1 start date if you used your special enrollment period, whereas you’ll have a January 1 effective date if you just enrolled under the normal open enrollment period rules.

So if your special enrollment period overlaps with open enrollment, you might want to utilize your special enrollment period in order to get an earlier effective date. But keep in mind that the plan would have then renewed on January 1, which means you would have had a nearly immediate rate change and potential benefits change for the new year. (For 2022, rates decreased for some plans and increased for others; the specifics will depend on the plan you select.)

If you don’t enroll in an ACA-compliant health insurance plan by the end of open enrollment (which was January 15, 2022 in most states), your buying options will be limited until the next open enrollment starts in the fall of 2022.

Depending on the circumstances, there are various options for obtaining coverage, even after open enrollment ends:

Medicaid enrollment is year-round

Medicaid and CHIP enrollment are available year-round for those who qualify. If your income drops to a Medicaid-eligible level later in the year, you’ll be able to enroll at that point. Similarly, if you’re on Medicaid and your income increases to a level that makes you ineligible for Medicaid, you’ll have an opportunity to switch to a private plan at that point, with the loss of your Medicaid plan serving as the qualifying event that triggers a special enrollment period.

Monthly enrollment opportunity if your household income doesn’t exceed 150% of the poverty level

In September 2021, the Biden administration finalized a new monthly enrollment opportunity for people whose household income doesn’t exceed 150% of the federal poverty level. This enrollment opportunity will remain in place for as long as the American Rescue Plan’s subsidy structure (which grants premium-free benchmark plans to people at this income level) remains in place. That’s at least through the end of 2022, and possibly longer if Congress extends the ARP’s subsidy structure. The Build Back Better Act, which passed the House in November 2021, would extend the ARP’s subsidy structure through 2025. But its future is uncertain and that version of the legislation doesn’t have enough support to pass in the Senate.

Native Americans can enroll year-round

Native Americans can enroll in plans through the marketplace year-round. Here’s more about special provisions in the ACA that apply to Native Americans.

Special enrollment period if you have a qualifying event

If you have a qualifying event during the year, you’ll have access to a special enrollment period (SEP). Qualifying events include marriage (assuming at least one spouse already had coverage prior to the marriage), the birth or adoption of a child, loss of other minimum essential coverage, or a permanent move to a new geographical area where the available health plans are different from what was available in your prior location (assuming you already had coverage prior to your move).

Here’s a full guide to all of the qualifying events that trigger special enrollment periods in the individual market, including details about the specific rules that apply to each of them.

Short-term health insurance

Under general federal rules, short-term health insurance plans can have initial terms of up to 364 days and a total duration of up to 36 months, including renewals. But the majority of the states placed more restrictive limits on the availability of short-term plans, and those state limits supersede the new federal rules.

You can visit our short-term health insurance page to check your state’s guidelines.

There is no federal government penalty for being uninsured in 2022, but you still need coverage!

The ACA’s federal individual mandate penalty has been $0 since the start of 2019, and that continues to be the case for 2022. People who are uninsured do not face a penalty, unless they’re in a state that has its own individual mandate and a penalty for non-compliance. Four states and DC impose tax penalties for not having health insurance:

  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • California
  • Rhode Island
  • District of Columbia

Yes! In every state, you can browse the available plans anonymously before you create an exchange account. If you want to see rates and plan options, the information is available – online, in-person, and by phone. Here are some tips for finding it:

  • Get a quote here at healthinsurance.org. You’ll want to select the option for “Affordable Care Act plans” when you’re using the shopping tool. But as noted above, if you’re also in need of a short-term plan to cover you until the end of December, you can also get quotes for those plans if you select the option for “short-term plans and alternatives” (keeping in mind that these should be thought of as a bridge plan until your ACA-compliant plan takes effect, rather than a replacement).
  • ‘Window shop’ anonymously on your state exchange (if you’re in DC or one of the 17 states that run their own exchanges) or HealthCare.gov’s plan browsing page (if you’re in one of the other 33 states). Note that as of the fall of 2021, Kentucky, Maine, and New Mexico transitioned to their own enrollment platforms. The window shopping tools that are available through the exchanges are anonymous and do not require you to enter any identifying information; they offer a quick and easy way to get a good idea of what’s available to you. You can enter an estimate of how much you expect to earn in 2022, and the shopping tools will show you the amount of premium subsidy (premium tax credit) you’ll be eligible to receive (here’s how household income is calculated under the ACA).
  • Consult with a trained advisor. Set up an appointment with a Navigator or broker in your area who will be able to help you sort through the available options and figure out which one will best meet your needs. (See below for more information about the enrollment assisters who can help you.)
  • Talk with your health care providers. This is helpful especially if you’re considering a policy change during open enrollment. You’ll want to know which provider networks include your doctors, and whether any network changes are planned for the coming year.

There are several states that offer additional subsidies beyond the federal benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act. Some of these state subsidies reduce the premiums that people pay for their coverage, and some reduce out-of-pocket costs. Here’s a summary of what’s available for 2022:

  • Colorado (additional cost-sharing reductions for some consumers)
  • Connecticut (free coverage and medical care for some consumers)
  • Maryland (additional premium subsidies for some young adults)
  • New Jersey (additional premium subsidies for most enrollees)
  • Massachusetts (additional premium and cost-sharing subsidies for some consumers)
  • Vermont (additional premium and cost-sharing subsidies for some consumers)
  • Washington (additional subsidies for some child-care workers)

If you were already enrolled in an ACA-compliant health plan through your state’s marketplace, could you just let that plan automatically renew for 2022? In most cases, yes, assuming your plan continues to be available. But letting your plan auto-renew is not in your best interest.

Auto-renewal was an option for nearly all exchange enrollees for 2022, although Maine, Kentucky, and New Mexico residents had to claim their new accounts at their state-run exchanges, as those states have transitioned away from HealthCare.gov and enrollee data was migrated to the new exchange platforms.

But relying on auto-renewal is not in your best interest. No matter how much you like your plan, it pays to shop around during open enrollment and see if a plan change is worth your while.

Here is why:

  • In most states, you’ll have limited opportunities to pick a new plan after your coverage is auto-renewed. The auto-renewal process happened right after December 15, for people who hadn’t manually renewed or selected a new plan. Since open enrollment now extends into January in nearly every state, enrollees in most states have until at least January 15 to pick a new plan if they ended up deciding that the auto-renewed option wasn’t the best choice after all. If you decide to make a change in the latter part of open enrollment, your auto-renewed plan will cover you in January, and your new plan will take effect in February. But after January 15, in most of the country, you will not have another chance to change your coverage until the following year, unless you experience a qualifying event.
  • Your subsidy amount will generally change from one year to the next. If your subsidy gets smaller, auto-renewal could result in higher premiums next year. As has been the case for the last couple of years, numerous new insurers have entered the insurance markets all across the country for 2022. This is good news in terms of competition and plan options. But if those plans are priced below the previously available options, they can bring down the cost of the benchmark plan and reduce premium subsidies for everyone in the area. Shopping around for a different plan — as opposed to letting your plan auto-renew – might result in substantial savings.

    This article illustrates examples of how this works, based on real enrollees’ experiences with 2021 and 2022 coverage. And this article is another example of how subsidy changes can have a drastic impact on net premium changes, and why comparison shopping is so important.

  • If you receive a subsidy, auto-renewal could be dicey even if the subsidy amount isn’t declining. If you rely on auto-renewal (as opposed to manually renewing and completing the financial eligibility determination process for the coming year), the exchange can renew your plan without a premium subsidy in certain circumstances. This includes situations in which you didn’t give the exchange permission to access your financial information in subsequent years, or if you failed to reconcile your premium subsidy on a prior year’s tax return (note that this is not applicable for 2020, as premium subsidies did not have to be reconciled for 2020, due to pandemic relief legislation). This is explained in more detail in this FAQ.
  • Auto-renewal might result in a missed opportunity for a better value. Even if the plan you had in 2021 represented the best value at the time, there may be different plans available for 2022 (insurers have expanded their coverage areas and joined the exchanges in numerous states for 2022, and the American Rescue Plan’s extra subsidies might mean that you could upgrade your coverage at little or no additional cost). Provider networks and benefit structures can change from one year to the next, as can premiums. You might have still decided that renewing your 2021 plan was the best option for 2022. But it’s definitely better to actively make that decision rather than letting your plan auto-renew without considering the other available options.

Health insurance is complicated, and many people want or need personal assistance with the application process and with ongoing insurance utilization questions. To fill this need, there are a variety of assisters nationwide who are trained to guide people through the process of researching and enrolling in health plans, and some can provide ongoing support after the plan is purchased.

Health insurance navigators

The health insurance Navigator role was created for the purpose of providing impartial education and outreach about the exchanges and exchange health plans, helping applicants determine whether they qualify for subsidies or Medicaid, and assisting them in the enrollment process. Standards and regulations for the Navigator program are outlined in 45 CFR 155.210 and CFR 45 155.215.

In early 2016, HHS laid out enhanced requirements for Navigators – most of which took effect for 2018 – including targeted assistance for underserved and uninsured populations, as well as post-enrollment assistance (on issues such as eligibility appeals and health insurance utilization). The enhanced requirements are detailed in 45 CFR 155.210(e)(9).

In the guidelines for 2020, HHS reversed course somewhat on this, making those duties optional, rather than required, for Navigator organizations. But HHS has pivoted once again on this, with new rules for 2022 and beyond that once again require Navigator organizations to provide assistance with post-enrollment issues like subsidy reconciliation and eligibility appeals.

And the Biden administration has also greatly increased funding for Navigator organizations, resulting in far more Navigators available to help people sort out their 2022 coverage.

Navigators are not permitted to recommend one plan over another or direct consumers towards a particular policy. Instead, their job is to provide general information that consumers can use to understand what’s available to them. Navigators are paid by state and federal grant programs, and they cannot be compensated by the insurance companies.

Certified application counselors (CACs)

Certified application counselors (CACs) can also provide assistance with the enrollment process. They are similar to Navigators, but their role is more limited and their focus tends to be strictly on helping people enroll, without the more extensive assistance that some Navigators can provide.

The exchange designates local “CAC organizations” (health centers, faith-based organizations, colleges, etc.) and people who are affiliated with or employed by those organizations are eligible to serve as CACs. Navigators are funded through the exchange, but certified application counselors are not. Funding for the CAC program can come from a variety of state and federal sources though, including existing public health appropriations. And CACs themselves are often volunteering their time to help people enroll in health coverage.

Insurance brokers and agents

Insurance brokers and agents who are certified by the exchanges can also explain plan details and help consumers determine subsidy or Medicaid eligibility, but – and this is a key difference – they can also make plan recommendations based on a client’s particular situation.

Agents and brokers continue to assist their clients after the plan is purchased, helping them sort out questions and problems regarding billing, utilization, claims, and appeals. Brokers and agents also generally carry errors and omissions insurance, and are licensed by their state department of insurance (this is in addition to their certification with the exchange; Navigators and CACs are trained and certified by the exchange, but are not licensed by the state insurance department).

For health insurance purposes, independent agents and brokers are virtually the same thing, although brokers may represent more carriers or offer different types of insurance products.

ACA consumer protections apply to all individual major medical policies, regardless of whether the coverage is sold in the exchange. And the same open enrollment window – November 1 to January 15 in most states – applies regardless of whether the plan is sold in the exchange or outside the exchange.

But the ACA’s premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions are only available if you buy a plan in the exchange. If you purchase the exact same plan directly from the insurance company (ie, off-exchange), you’ll have to pay full price, there will be no cost-sharing reductions available, and you won’t have an option to claim the premium tax credit when you file your tax return the following year. If you think that you might be subsidy-eligible, the exchange is definitely where you want to shop.

However, if your employer is offering you an Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement (ICHRA) benefit and also offering to let you payroll deduct your portion of the premium that isn’t covered by the ICHRA, you’ll need to select an off-exchange plan in order to fully take advantage of your employer’s offer.

If you’re curious about off-exchange health plans, this FAQ offers a more in-depth look at how they’re regulated and the reasons some people choose off-exchange plans.

If your health insurance policy is not grandfathered but was in effect prior to 2014, your plan is considered a transitional health plan or “grandmothered policy.” These plans are not fully ACA-compliant, and were purchased between March 23, 2010 – when the ACA was signed into law – and the end of 2013.

This page offers a detailed overview of how grandmothered/transitional health plans are regulated and the specific rules that apply in each state.

Transitional health plans can remain in force throughout 2022 if states and insurers allow it

Transitional health plans were initially slated to end in 2014. But extensions have been granted by the federal government every year, allowing these plans to remain in force if the state agrees and if the insurer still wants to renew the plans. The latest extension allows transitional health plans to renew up until October 1, 2022, and remain in force until the end of 2022. (Without another extension, transitional plans will have to be replaced with ACA-compliant plans as of 2023, but extensions have been granted every year since 2014.)

Transitional individual/family health plans still exist in 29 states. (In the remaining states, these plans were either required to terminate or insurers voluntarily terminated them and replaced them with ACA-compliant coverage.)

Carefully consider the new plans available to you before you decide to renew your transitional plan

If your insurer offered renewal for 2022, you have the option to keep your plan for another year. But it’s definitely in your best interest to carefully compare your plan with the new options that are available in the ACA-compliant market for 2022.

You might find that you’re eligible for premium subsidies, even if that wasn’t the case in the past. This is particularly true if you were previously limited by the “subsidy cliff,” as that has been eliminated for 2021 and 2022. (The version of the Build Back Better Act that passed the House in November 2021 would continue to eliminate the subsidy cliff through 2025, but the future of that bill is uncertain.)

And the ACA-compliant plans available now are likely to provide more robust coverage – including all of the essential health benefits – than the plan you purchased prior to 2014.

Would ACA subsidies lower your health insurance premiums?

Use our 2022 subsidy calculator to see if you’re eligible for ACA premium subsidies – and your potential savings if you qualify.

Obamacare subsidy calculator *

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Add ages of other family members to be insured.

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Include yourself, your spouse, and children claimed as dependents on your taxes.

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Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI)

For most taxpayers, your MAGI is close to AGI (Line 7 of your Form 1040 in 2018, and Line 8b in 2019).

Estimated annual subsidy

Provide information above to get an estimate.

* This tool provides ACA premium subsidy estimates based on your household income. healthinsurance.org does not collect or store any personal information from individuals using our subsidy calculator.

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