Open enrollment is the time when you can purchase an individual or individual family health plan for this year.
In terms of Obamacare (not those who have insurance via work), open enrollment ends March 31.
After then, you’ll have to wait until the next open enrollment period (11/15/2014 – 1/15/2015), unless you have a special circumstance, known as a “qualifying life event.” In most cases you have 60 days after the event to enroll. Those events include:
- Getting married
- Having or adopting a child
- Permanently moving to a new area that offers different health plans
- Losing other health coverage because of job loss, divorce, loss of eligibility for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, expiration of COBRA coverage or decertification of a health plan. (A plan is decertified if it no longer meets federal and state standards for health plans.) Losing coverage because you didn’t pay the premiums does not qualify you for special enrollment.
- A change in your household that affects eligibility for tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies, if you’re already enrolled in a marketplace plan.
There will be a few plans available between March and November. Some insurers will still offer short-term and temporary health plans.
Health policy experts expect a rush to buy coverage as the open enrollment deadline nears, much as there was a surge at the end of December to buy coverage to begin Jan. 1.
“We caution consumers that it may take a while to get through the enrollment process, so they should start it as soon as they can,” says Cheryl Fish-Parcham, deputy director of health policy at Families USA, a health care advocacy group.