What Open Enrollment Means

The open enrollment period is here for 2016 health insurance coverage. Because the Affordable Care Act is still relatively new and the concept of “open enrollment” has only been in place for a couple of years, let’s take a look at what this means.

What is Open Enrollment?

This is the time period when medical insurance plans update their services and you can enroll in a health insurance plan, change plans, or apply for cost assistance. Every health insurance plan, even private plans, share the open enrollment periods.

However, plans provided by employers, Medicaid, and Medicare have unique periods in which you can enroll. For example, your job-based health insurance has open enrollment periods that are set by your employer, so they can happen during a different time of year than general “open enrollment.” It is a good idea to ask HR what your open enrollment period is.

When Does Open Enrollment Happen?

Open enrollment for 2016 is happening right now! Here are the dates, along with how they correspond with when you would become insured:

November 1, 2015: Open enrollment started. If you sign up for new plans or change health insurance plans between November 1st and December 15th, your new coverage will begin on January 1st, 2016.

December 16, 2015: You can still sign up for a new plan or change your insurance plan between December 16th and January 15th, but coverage won’t start until February 1st, 2016.

January 16, 2016: Open enrollment will end soon, so if you have not signed up for a new plan or changed your health insurance to the plan you want by this date, you have until January 31st to do so. If you sign up between Jan 16th-31st, your coverage will start on March 1st, 2016.

January 31st, 2016: This is the last day of open enrollment and it’s your last chance to change or get new 2016 coverage. If you don’t enroll in a 2016 health insurance plan by January 31st, you can’t enroll in a health insurance plan for 2016 unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

What are Special Enrollment Periods?

There are specific life events that allow you to change plans or enroll in a health insurance plan for the first time without being constrained by the open enrollment dates. You have to apply for insurance within 60 days of the qualifying life event. Such events include:

  • Having a baby
  • Adopting a child
  • Marriage
  • Losing health coverage
  • Putting a child into foster care
  • Moving to a new state
  • Changes of income
  • Gaining membership of a federally recognized tribe
  • Becoming a U.S. citizen
  • Leaving incarceration
  • A change in the dependency status of someone on your health insurance plan
  • Death of a covered member within your household

Such life events can change your coverage, so be sure to talk to your insurance broker if you end up qualifying for a change in your insurance during a special enrollment period. Additionally, here at Innovative Benefits Group, we can help you find the best plan for your needs within the tight open enrollment period. Contact us today for a free quote.


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