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Open Enrollment for Health Insurance

Your health insurance open enrollment period depends on where you get coverage from, but it's typically the only time you can buy.
Oct. 18, 2019
Finding Health Insurance, Health
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Open enrollment is the time period each year when you’re allowed to start, stop or change your health insurance plan. Normally, you sign up around the end of one calendar year for coverage that lasts the next full year. Here’s what to know about your open enrollment.


Open enrollment for health insurance

Plan typeDates
Marketplace plans (Healthcare.gov and state exchanges) and individual plansNov. 1 to Dec. 15
Employer-sponsored health insuranceDates depend on your employer, but typically in the fall
MedicareOct. 15 to Dec. 7
MedicaidNo date restrictions — you can apply at any time

Open enrollment for federal and state marketplace plans

Each year the open enrollment window for private, individual health plans lasts 45 days: Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

You can shop for individual health plans in four ways:

  • On the federal marketplace or a state exchange via Healthcare.gov.
  • On the phone, by calling the marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596.
  • Directly on an insurer’s website.
  • Via a local health insurance broker.

The only way to get an individual health plan outside of open enrollment is to qualify for a special enrollment period.

Only private plans purchased on a state or federal marketplace can get premium tax credits.

An advantage of using Healthcare.gov is that tax credits to lower your monthly premiums are available only on this federal marketplace or a state exchange.

If your income is too high and you won’t qualify for tax credits, or if you have a chronic condition and the marketplace plans don’t cover your needs, you may decide to shop elsewhere for a health plan. A health insurance broker or online health insurance seller may help you find a plan that’s better for you than those offered on a state or federal marketplace.

Open enrollment for employer-sponsored insurance

You could end up paying a lot more for health insurance by declining your employer’s coverage.

If your health insurance comes from an employer, your open enrollment period might change each year. Timing can depend on several factors, but selection is generally during the fall.

You can purchase a different plan from one your employer offers if you wish. But if you decline your employer’s insurance, be aware that:

  • You can’t get premium tax credits for a marketplace plan unless your employer’s plan fails to meet minimum standards for coverage and affordability. Since employers usually pick up part of the bill, you could end up paying a lot more.
  • If you then fail to buy a plan during the open enrollment period for individual plans, you’ll be uninsured and in some states, may have to pay a penalty. (There is no longer a federal penalty for not having health insurance.)

Medicare open enrollment

Medicare open enrollment is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. Medicare beneficiaries also have other time periods throughout the year when they can change benefits. And unlike other types of insurance, Medicare has additional “disenrollment” periods.

Important dates for Medicare
Oct. 15 to Dec. 7Open enrollment
Jan. 1 to Feb. 14Medicare Advantage disenrollment period, when you can switch from Medicare Advantage to Original Medicare.
Jan. 1 to March 31Medicare Parts A and B general enrollment. You can enroll in Parts A and B during this time, if you didn’t sign up when you were first eligible.