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Street signs that say "enroll"
Street signs that say "enroll"

How to Get Ready for Health Insurance Open Enrollment (6 Steps)

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Today we’ll cover steps you can take to prepare for and enroll in private individual health insurance during the annual Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period.

For coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the open enrollment period for most states is from November 1, 2020, through December 15, 2020.[0]

However, a handful of states that operate their own exchanges have opted to extend open enrollment through the use of special enrollment periods.

Note that your new policy’s effective date will vary depending on when you enroll if doing so through an extended special enrollment period:

  • California: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021[1] – California passed legislation to enact a permanent 3-month health insurance open enrollment period.[2]
  • Colorado: Nov. 1, 2020 through Jan. 15, 2021 – Colorado passed legislation to enact a “market stabilization special enrollment period” that permanently extends the standard open enrollment period.[3]
  • Massachusetts: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 23, 2021.[4]
  • Minnesota: Nov. 1 through Dec. 22, 2020.[5]
  • Nevada: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2021.[6]
  • New Jersey: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021.[7]
  • New York: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021.[8]
  • Pennsylvania: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 15, 2021.[9]
  • Rhode Island: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 23, 2021.[10]
  • Washington D.C.: Nov. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2021 – A “special enrollment period for future open enrollment periods” motion was passed in May, 2019 to permanently extend the open enrollment period to three months.[11]

Remember, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period or another form of minimum essential coverage that offers year-round enrollment, like Medicaid, you can only enroll in individual major medical insurance during annual open enrollment. So it’s a good idea to take some time right now to review your healthcare needs, current/past insurance coverage, and make some decisions for the coming year.

In the remainder of this blog post, we’ll walk you through the steps to take to get ready for and enroll in health insurance during the 2020 open enrollment period.

How to Prepare for 2021 Open Enrollment and Get Coverage

Follow the steps below to make sure you get coverage to fit your needs in 2021.

1. Get up to speed – understand what has changed for the ACA in 2021.

Quick Tip: Get Up-to-Date Personal Medical Information
It may be a good idea to schedule preventive care visits before you begin shopping for coverage for next year so you’ll have up-to-date medical information. If you uncover a health condition that you were previously unaware of, it may influence the type of health insurance you wish to enroll in or that you can qualify for.

Remember, if a medical concern is discovered during a routine or preventive care check, it could cause you to become ineligible for some non-ACA health insurance options.

2. Understand your options if you’re shopping around for individual health insurance:

2a. Understand your group health coverage options if you get benefits through your employer:

Quick Tip: Grandfathered Health Plans
If you have a [13]

Because of this, if you are maintaining a grandfathered health insurance policy, make sure it has withstood the test of time and still offers you the level of benefits and coverage you need. Conversely, if your insurance company stops offering your grandfathered plan, you’ll have to shop around this year.

Learn more about grandfathered health plans, including options if your grandfathered health plan is canceled.

3. See if you qualify for a subsidy for ACA health insurance in 2021.

Quick Tip: When are New Premium Rate Changes Available?
The rates used to generate premiums on the ACA Marketplace and calculate ACA premium tax credits aren’t typically finalized until the last week of October, just prior to the beginning of open enrollment. If you’re getting a jumpstart on open enrollment, make sure you’re seeing 2021 data!

4. Enroll in coverage. If you’re enrolling in individual insurance:

5. Know where to get help:

  • For ACA plan help, find local help from or contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596.
  • Speak to a Health eDeals agent by calling (888) 855-6837 for help understanding your individual health insurance options.
  • For help with your employer-provided group benefits, speak to a representative at your workplace.

6. Consider Supplemental Insurance:

Summary + Next Steps

Health insurance is unique for each person and family, and health and financial circumstances can change from year to year.

That’s why it’s important to review your coverage and policy options each year when open enrollment comes around to ensure you have the right kind of coverage and enough benefits for the type of healthcare you’re likely to need.

There is no single coverage or benefits solution that works for every situation. ACA-qualifying major medical coverage may be enough for you.

Or you may find that you want to supplement your major medical benefits to help with out-of-pocket costs.

Or if you tend to be healthy and prefer to pay a lower premium[14] for less coverage and benefits, preferring to pay more of your healthcare costs on your own, you may opt for a limited benefit medical policy (your premium amount ultimately depends on the benefits you select).

Work the steps and find the right fit for you – and make sure to do it before the end of open enrollment! Remember, for most people, once open enrollment is over, it’s difficult to enroll in major medical insurance until the next open enrollment period.

Need help? Speak to a licensed agent by calling (888) 855-6837 to talk through your coverage options.

ACA Open Enrollment Resource Guide

Check out the related ACA resources below for more help navigating open enrollment.

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Have Questions? Speak to an Agent

Speak to a licensed health insurance agent during business hours for help understanding your options and enrolling in coverage.