Open Enrollment Period: For Individual and Family Health Insurance

Individual Health Insurance Covered California

Open enrollment is the period during which people can purchase health insurance for the upcoming year. The reason there is a set time for open enrollment is a socio-economic one — to prevent people from buying insurance only when they fall sick. This way, individuals and families have health coverage all year round as long as they pay their premiums, and insurance companies don’t have to worry about receiving premiums only when someone develops a costlier medical need.

When Is the Open Enrollment Period for Obamacare 2018?

In 2018, open enrollment began on November 1, 2017, and ends on December 15, 2017. The Covered California enrollment period ends on January 31, 2018.

You can shop for individual and family health plans during this period in the following ways:

  • Health for California Online Application
  • On the state exchange, Covered California
  • Directly through an insurance provider
  • With the help of a local health insurance broker

Special Enrollment Is the Only Exception to Open Enrollment

The only other way to buy an insurance plan outside of open enrollment is to qualify for special enrollment. This exception allows you to apply for health insurance if you’ve had certain qualifying life events, such as:

  • Losing your job
  • Moving to a new state
  • Getting married or divorced
  • Becoming a widow or widower
  • Aging off your parent’s plan
  • Having a new baby

Note that you won’t be eligible for special enrollment if you lost your previous health plan because you failed to pay your monthly premiums or if you voluntarily negated the coverage.

What Are Your Options During Open Enrollment?

Depending on your current situation, you have the following options.

  • Buy a plan through Covered California. You may want to buy a plan through the marketplace if you qualify for a tax credit to help offset your premiums. Qualifying usually depends on your income and household size. Your total household income must be between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, or FPL. For instance, for a family of four, the income bracket should be between $24,616 and $98,400.
  • Renew or change your current plan. During the open enrollment period, you can renew your existing plan. You won’t have to do anything if you want to keep what you have. But if your current plan is changing — for instance, your PCP is leaving the network, or your drugs aren’t in the list of covered medications — then you may want to switch to a plan that best suits your current needs. If you need to change policies, the open enrollment period is the best time.

Which Health Insurance Options Don’t Use Open Enrollment?

Most health insurers in California use some sort of open enrollment program. But there are a few exceptions:

  • Medicaid: Medicaid doesn’t limit enrollment to the open enrollment period. If you’re eligible for Medicaid, you’re allowed to enroll anytime.
  • CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program doesn’t limit enrollment to a specific time, either.
  • Short-term health insurance: Short-term insurance such as traveler’s insurance doesn’t follow open enrollment, either. The plans are available all year round.

The open enrollment period in California runs until January 31, 2018. Those with questions about Covered California enrollment can contact us for help at (877) 752-4737. We’ll be happy to help.