Obama Care Open Enrollment

When Can You Apply for Obama Care California?

Generally, you can apply for Obama Care once a year in a window of time called the Open Enrollment Period.  However, if you experience a qualifying life event, you may be able to apply during the Special Enrollment Period.

Open Enrollment

  • Dates: The dates have varied for the first few Open Enrollments, but it has been proposed that eventually it will be November 1 through December 15 of each year with an effective date of January 1 of the following year.
  • Applies to all individuals and families: They can apply for health insurance that is minimum essential coverage either on or off the Marketplace Exchange.
  • Exceptions to the rule: Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare, and employer sponsored health plans have their own specific enrollment periods and guidelines.
  • Switching plans or insurance carriers: If you already have health insurance, Open Enrollment is the time in which you can make changes to your plan or explore your options to see if you qualify for a tax credit through Obamacare. 

Special Enrollment

Only if you experience a certain Qualifying Life Event, can you apply outside of Open Enrollment. Within the last 60 days have you recently married, had a baby, involuntarily lost your health insurance, or moved to a new area? These are some examples of life events which may allow you to apply during a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

Why does Obama Care have an Open Enrollment Period?

Before Obama Care or the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) was made law, there were different rules for how people apply for health insurance. These rules affect those applying in the individual market. Typically, it’s those who are not on employer or government plans.

As a result, insurance companies have to accept a larger pool of applicants with a higher percentage of sick people. To control costs, insurance companies use open enrollment periods so that everyone signs up at the same time each year. This way everyone contributes their premiums throughout the whole year to balance the costs of services between healthy and sick people. 

Without an annual Open Enrollment, people would only sign up when they got sick. This would create a huge imbalance of sick people verses healthy people in the pool. The result would be higher costs to the insurance companies who would in turn pass on those costs in the form of higher rates to you and me.


Not sure how Obamacare affects your health care plans in California? Learn how the ACA works in California, including benefits, costs and enrollment.

Covered California is the Golden State’s official health exchange marketplace where individuals, families and small businesses can find high-quality, low-cost California government health insurance.

Learn about Obamacare income guidelines in California using our income limits chart, and see if you’re eligible for government assistance.

Learn about the Covered California website. Find easy online enrollment. Set up your account, log in, buy insurance and more on the California health marketplace website.