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When is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance?

When is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance? | Very Good Coverage

The open enrollment period for 2021 health insurance coverage began on November 1st, 2020, and ended on December 15th, 2020, in most states.

Most health insurance companies in the United States use some sort of open enrollment period that limits signups and changes to your health insurance plan to a particular time of the year. This is a period of time when you can sign up for a new health insurance plan or make a few changes to your existing health insurance plan. And because open enrollment is limited to a particular time of the year, it’s important to know when open enrollment in your state is.

The national health insurance open enrollment period for major health insurance coverage began on November 1, 2020, and ended on December 15, 2020, in most states. This is for the health insurance coverage beginning on January 1st, 2021. Some states have extended open enrollment periods but they cannot use the federal insurance marketplace.

You most probably do not want to go through an entire year without health insurance just because you missed out on the open enrollment period. As such, this article highlights everything you need to know as far as the open enrollment period is concerned.

What is the Open Enrollment Period?

The open enrollment period is essentially that yearly period when you can enroll or make changes to your health insurance plan. While the open enrollment period may depend on where you live, where you get coverage from, and what type of coverage you want, it’s normally the only time of the year when you can buy health insurance.

In essence, this is the time of the year when you’re allowed to examine, start, stop, or change your health insurance plan. Typically, it’s around the end of the calendar year and it’s the time when you can sign up for health insurance coverage that lasts the next full year.

So When is the Open Enrollment Period?

Each year, the open enrollment period for individual, private, and group health insurance plans lasts for 45 days between November 1st and December 15th. This period is generally known as the national health insurance open enrollment period and is meant for individuals seeking major health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

It’s important to keep in mind that some states may choose to extend their open enrollment periods to either start before or end after the normal national enrollment period of November 1st to December 15th. The only caveat is that residents of such states are barred from accessing health insurance plans from the federal marketplace.

Instead, they can only access health insurance from the state-run health insurance marketplaces. This, however, doesn’t mean that all states with state-run marketplaces do not comply with the national open enrollment period. If anything, most of the states with state-run marketplaces do not have an extended open enrollment period.

What Type of Health Insurance Use Open Enrollment Period?

While many people believe that the open enrollment period is only meant for individual market health insurance, this is far from the truth. The truth is most types of health insurance use the open enrollment period. They include:

  • Job-based health insurance
  • The Individual health insurance market
  • Medicare

When is the Open Enrollment Period for these Types of Health Insurance?

It’s important to keep in mind that the open enrollment period may vary depending on the type of health insurance plan that you choose. Here is how it works.

Job-based Health Insurance

Many people are not aware that job-based health insurance doesn’t have to comply with the national open enrollment period. Instead, they’re set by the employer and can occur at any time of the year. However, most employers tend to set their open enrollment period in autumn (between late September and mid-December) for coverage beginning January 1st of next year.

This means that some employers choose to have health insurance plans for their employees that do not align with the normal calendar year. For instance, there are employers who offer an open enrollment period in June for a health insurance plan beginning in August.

So if you’re employed and your employer offers health insurance, it’s important to stay on top of things and know the exact open enrollment period for your health insurance plan. We have to note that this type of open enrollment period is common in the private industry.

Individual Health Insurance Market

Whether you’re planning to buy your individual health insurance plan from the state/federal-run marketplace or from a private insurer, the open enrollment period typically runs from November 1st to December 15th in most states. This schedule is in accordance with, which is essentially the health insurance exchange platform used in most states (about 38 states including Texas).

Other states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, California, and Colorado run their own exchange platforms. This gives them the flexibility to offer their residents extended open enrollment periods. For example, California has an open enrollment period that begins on November 1, 2020, and runs until January 31. 2021.

It’s also important to note that Native Americans are not limited to any form of open enrollment period. They can enroll in individual market insurance health plans through the marketplace throughout the year. In short, Native Americans are not limited to the yearly open enrollment period.


The open enrollment period for Medicare can be a little bit more complicated than other plans. This is because the type of open enrollment period will depend on the type of Medicare plan that you want.

For example, the open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans typically starts on October 15th and ends on December 7th each year. If you already have Medicare Advantage, you can have a separate open enrollment period running from January 1st to March 31st.

You should, however, keep in mind that the above-mentioned open enrollment periods for Medicare do not apply to Medigap plans. This is because they’re considered supplemental to Medicare and can be available throughout the year.

Types of Health Insurance that Do Not Use Open Enrollment

While most health insurance plans have to comply with the open enrollment period, there are a few exceptions. They include:

Travel Insurance

Open enrollment generally does not apply to travel insurance due to the short-term nature of travel insurance coverage and policies. There are, however, some travel insurers that may restrict your ability to buy a travel insurance policy to the period immediately after your travel is booked.

CHIP (Children’s’ Health Insurance Program)

CHIP is not limited to a particular open enrollment period.


Just like CHIP, Medicaid doesn’t have an open enrollment limit. In other words, you can enroll for Medicaid at any time of the year.

Short-term Health Insurance

Like travel insurance, short-term health insurance is not regulated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so the plans should be available all year round. You, however, have to remember that short-term health insurance plans do not offer coverage for pre-existing medical conditions in most states or have various restrictions.

Again, short-term health insurance plans aren’t available in 11 states including New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Connecticut, California, Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii.

Supplemental Insurance Products

Supplemental insurance products such as fully-fledged dental and vision care are available to individuals throughout the year. For example, Medigap plans are meant to supplement Medicare and can be purchased throughout the year.

Things to Consider During Open Enrollment

For many Americans, health insurance is probably their biggest and most important benefit package. So even if you’re not planning to make changes to your current health insurance plan during the open enrollment period, you should carefully review what the insurer is offering for the upcoming year and see if it fits your needs. Here are a few things to look at.

Changes to the Health Insurance Coverage

You should carefully take a look at your current health insurance coverage and see what might be available for the upcoming year. For instance, there might be a few changes on minute things such as physical therapy or even braces on your dental insurance that might change from one year to the next.

Changes to Your Health Insurance Costs

Insurers often change their costs and it’s possible that your premiums can either go down or increase. There are also chances that the deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses can increase or reduce, so it’s essential to be aware of such changes.

Consider Alternative Options

The open enrollment period is a great time to explore other options for your current health insurance plan. You can look at various plans, what they offer, and choose the right health insurance plan for you.

When will Your Coverage Begin?

As we’ve noted several times, most states had their open enrollment for 2021 running from November 1, 2020, to December 15, 2020. This means that your effective date for the coverage to begin is on January 1, 2021, but as long as you enrolled by December 15, 2020.


Greg McKnight

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