Welcome to our Countdown to Coverage 2016 blog series. Over the next several weeks we’ll provide the information consumers need to make the best health insurance choices for themselves and their families.
Next month marks the beginning of the third open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace. This year’s open enrollment dates are a little different than in previous years so if you plan to look for new coverage or renew existing coverage at Healthcare.gov, you’ll want to keep a handful of key dates in mind.
November 1, 2015 – January 31, 2016 = Open Enrollment in the Marketplace
Open enrollment is the time of the year when people can purchase health insurance plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Open enrollment will last for 3 months starting on November 1, 2015, the first day you can apply for 2016 coverage.
You cannot enroll outside of open enrollment unless you qualify for a special enrollment period due to life changes like moving, marriage, divorce, child birth, or the loss of other health insurance coverage.
(Note: The enrollment period is NOT limited for Medicaid or CHIP – you can apply at any time. Also, small businesses with 50 or fewer employees can enroll in the SHOP Marketplace at any time.)
December 15, 2015 – Enrollment/Renewal Deadline for Coverage Effective January 1, 2016
December 15, 2015 is the last day to enroll in new coverage that will start on January 1, 2016. This deadline applies to people enrolling for the first time through the Marketplace, and to people who want to change plans for 2016.
If you have existing Marketplace coverage and cannot auto renew your coverage, you must take action either to renew your coverage or enroll in an alternate plan by December 15, 2015 to avoid any gaps in coverage. All 2015 Marketplace coverage ends on December 31, 2015, regardless of when you enrolled. (If you have an existing plan you will likely have the option to auto-renew. If you do not, you will receive a notice from the Marketplace with instructions. A future blog post will explain the ins and outs of renewal.)
If you miss the December 15, 2015 deadline for coverage starting January 1, you can still enroll for coverage starting later. Enroll by January 15 for coverage that starts February 1.
December 31, 2015 – All Existing 2015 Marketplace Coverage Ends, unless you are automatically renewed in the same or a similar plan. Remember, you may automatically be enrolled in the same plan but if the Marketplace can’t verify your income they may stop providing subsidies to help pay for your premiums, if you currently receive them. Read your renewal notice carefully to determine if your subsidies will end if you auto renew. In general, it’s better to actively shop for coverage each year to update your income and pick the plan that works best for you.
January 1, 2016 – First Day 2016 Coverage Can Start
Your Marketplace coverage will take effect on January 1, 2016 if you enrolled in new coverage by December 15, 2015 or were automatically renewed in your existing 2015 coverage.
January 31, 2016 – Last Day for 2016 Marketplace Open Enrollment
This is the final day to enroll in 2016 coverage. If you miss this deadline, you’ll only be able to enroll in Marketplace coverage mid-year if life changes like moving, getting married, or losing other coverage make you eligible for a special enrollment period.
Watch for more posts in the Countdown to Coverage series, tagged with Countdown to Coverage 2016.