Open Enrollment Period: For Individual and Family Health Insurance

Open enrollment period is the window of time during the year when

  • Most anyone can sign up for health insurance

  • You can renew a current health plan

  • You can change the type of health plan you have

  • You can change the insurance company you are enrolled with

Before healthcare reform, people could sign up for health insurance at any time during the year. Today most applications and plan changes are only accepted during the open enrollment period. Outside of the open enrollment period is the special enrollment period.  A qualified life event is required to enroll or change plans during this period.


Open Enrollment Dates

Year Dates
2017 November 1 – January 31
2018 November 1 – January 31
2019 and beyond November 1 – December 15

These dates were announced by CMS (Centers of Medicare & Medicaid) as the open enrollment period for the Federal Government’s Health Insurance Exchange. Covered California can change the dates for California, but historically they have always followed the same timeframe.

Effective Dates and Deadlines

An effective date is the date your health insurance starts. Your health plan will not cover medical expenses before this date. If you need health insurance to start by a certain date, it is crucial you know the effective date you want, and the deadline the application must be submitted by.


What is the difference between open enrollment period and special open enrollment? A whole lot.

  Open Enrollment Special Open Enrollment
Who can apply? Most everyone ( i.e. All U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals or lawfully present immigrants) Only those with a qualified life event
When can you apply? During open enrollment window of time Within 60 days of the qualifying life event date


As always, a few exceptions apply. For example, federally recognized American-Indians, Native Alaskans, and those who qualify for Medi-Cal may apply year-round and are not limited to the open enrollment period.