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The Affordable Care Act set up the Health Insurance Marketplace online. You can sign up for an insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. There is a time frame for signing up. This is called an “open enrollment period.” A lot of people want to know about the open enrollment period and when they can sign up.

If you miss the enrollment period, you cannot get health insurance through the Marketplace. You have to wait until the next open enrollment period, or you have to meet special requirements. If you meet special requirements, you can get a special enrollment period that lets you sign up. Learn more about when enrollment starts, how to apply for insurance and when your insurance coverage might start below.

Why is there an open enrollment period?

The open enrollment period gives people a reason to buy health insurance before they get sick. Without a set time frame, some people might not buy insurance. The way health insurance works is that it combines the costs of taking care of sick people and people who aren’t sick. So having healthy people with insurance helps the system.

For a health insurance company to stay in business, it has to get more money from people than it pays out for services. By only giving people a few weeks at the end of the year to sign up for insurance during the enrollment period, it makes them more likely to buy a plan fast. This is good for insurance companies. It’s good for people if they have problems in the future, too.

When does open enrollment start?

Open enrollment starts at the end of the year. People can start buying health insurance plans on November 1. The last day to sign up for a plan is December 15. If you miss the December deadline, you have to wait until next year. If you meet special rules, you can sign up earlier.

The open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act used to last more than 90 days. It used to last through January of the next year. But because of complaints from health insurance companies, the period was cut in half. Now it only lasts 45 days. Now it is a lot easier for people to miss the deadline. To make sure you don’t miss the deadline, mark November 1 and December 15 on your calendar.

It might be good to finish your application as soon as possible. The Marketplace website has crashed in the past. It might crash in the future, too. This could make you miss the deadline and miss out on insurance.

Learn About Healthcare Start Dates and Payments

If you get health insurance during the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment period, your plan should kick in on January 1. That means that between the day you bought your plan and December 31, you do not have any health insurance. Keep in mind that trying to get treatments before January will cost you more because of this.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your health insurance will not kick in if you do not pay your first payment on time. Check the due date on your first payment ahead of time to make sure you know when to pay by. If you don’t think you can afford the first payment for a plan, pick another plan.

Look at the deductible of your plan, too. The deductible is the amount of money you have to pay before your insurance company will start paying your bills.

Find Out About the Special Enrollment Period

If you meet special rules, you can qualify for a special enrollment period. A special enrollment period gives you 60 days to sign up for health insurance outside of open enrollment. You just have to meet one of these special rules:

  • You got married.
  • You got divorced.
  • You had a child or adopted a child.
  • You moved to a new county with a different ZIP code.
  • You turned 26 years old.
  • You became a U.S. citizen.
  • You lost the insurance plan from your job.
  • You lost insurance from a government program like Medicaid, Medicare or CHIP.

If you lost government insurance, you might have a longer special enrollment period of 120 days.

What if you miss open enrollment and don’t have a special enrollment period?

If you miss the ACA open enrollment period and do not qualify for special enrollment, what you can do depends on three factors. These factors are your state, how much money you make and if you have a job. You might be able to get health insurance through:

  • Your job.
  • Your school.
  • The Medicaid program.
  • The Medicare program.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program.

You can apply for Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP at any time of the year. If you get a job, your company might let you buy an insurance plan through them. If you are in college, you might be able to get insurance through your school.

Last Updated: February 27, 2023