What is Open Enrollment and When Is it?

What is Open Enrollment and When Is it?

One question that may have crossed your mind while listening to the news is “what is open enrollment?” Open enrollment is the time each year that you sign up for benefits at your place of employment. It is also when the federal government allows those who obtain health insurance through a one of their programs can make any changes or enroll. If you don’t sign up for policies during that time, you may not be able to sign up again until the next period.

Who Uses Open Enrollment?

Employers often have specific periods when employees can sign up for new health plans or make changes to a current plan. Medicare also uses specific enrollment periods as do the individual market health insurance plans created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Policies created by the ACA have enrollment windows whether you purchase the plan from the health insurance exchanges or outside of them. An employer must allow you to sign up for a health insurance plan during the enrollment period as long as you are eligible. Under the ACA, the employer cannot use underwriting or require evidence that you are insurable.

When is Open Enrollment?

Now that you have an idea what is open enrollment, you may be asking “when is open enrollment?” The 2019 Open Enrollment period was from November 1, 2018 through December 15, 2018. The 2019 Open Enrollment ran for 45 days just as the 2018 enrollment period which was significantly shorter than prior enrollment periods. The 2020 Open Enrollment period will be the same dates as 2019. California and Colorado have permanently extended the enrollment period and other states may also have extended deadlines for the 2020 Open Enrollment period. Medicare runs their enrollment from October 15 to December 7 each year. However, this does not apply to Medigap plans as they are only available during initial enrollment or during one of the very limited periods as determined by law.

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Marketplace Plans

Although it is believed that the enrollment time for ACA marketplace plans will remain the same as last year, there is a chance the government could change that although it seems unlikely. The 2019 Open Enrollment was the first time that the period ended before the first of the year. Plan selections cannot be made after the period ends. However, there are exceptions to the period of enrollment. If you have lost your job, moved, gotten divorced or married, became a widow or widower, aged off a parent’s plan or had a baby, you can make changes to your plan. These are known as significant life changes and qualify you to make changes to your health insurance plan. If you have lost your job and allowed COBRA insurance, which is insurance your employer offers to bridge the gap until you find another job or new insurance, you are also eligible to enroll in different plans.

Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans have a different enrollment plan than other types of insurance. Starting in 2019, Medicare Advantage participants can enroll or make changes from January 1 through March 31. At that time, you can either change from one plan to a different one or you can drop the plan you have and return to Original Medicare Part A and Part B. Those are the only changes you can make during the enrollment period.

Medicare Supplement

Medicare Supplement, also known as Medigap, work along with your original coverage to fill in gaps. There is no real open enrollment period for Medicare Supplement plans, although the best time to sign up for them is during your original enrollment period. This is a six-month period that starts on the first day of the month you turn 65 and enrolled in Part B. If you do not sign up for Medigap during that period, it may be more difficult for you to enroll later. Medigap plans can use underwriting and charge premiums based on your health status. They can also deny coverage if you have certain health problems. However, they cannot do either of these during your initial enrollment.

Children's Health Insurance Program

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. There are states that allow CHIP to cover pregnant women as well. There is no enrollment period for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. You can enroll all year if you qualify. Children up to the age of 19 can qualify for the low-cost health program. In addition to CHIP, the enrollment period for Medicaid is also all year as long as you qualify.

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