Every year during the open enrollment period, millions of Americans seek out new insurance policies.
Since we’re currently in the middle of open enrollment, you might be considering switching up your insurance coverage.
Here are the basics on everything you need to know about open enrollment.
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What Is Open Enrollment?
Open enrollment is a specific window of time when employers and health insurance providers allow individuals the opportunity to change up their health insurance by adding or removing coverage.
They may also make changes to their existing health coverage during this time as well. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individual health insurance packages have open enrollment windows (this applies both during and out of exchanges).
You can enroll for new insurance outside of the open enrollment period if you experience certain life events, such as having a child, losing coverage or if you get married.
When Does Open Enrollment Occur?
For 2016, the open enrollment period began on November 1, 2015 and it will end on January 31, 2016.
- Eight million people enrolled in the marketplaces during 2014 open enrollment.
- During 2015 open enrollment, 11.7 million people enrolled in the marketplaces.
- The uninsured rate for the 18-65 demographic was around 11.9 percent for the first quarter of 2015.
- Since 2013, 10.8 million people have enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP.
- In 2014, roughly 2.6 million young adults remained on their parents’ plans. That number increased to 3 million by 2015.
Whether you’re applying for new coverage, or you’re renewing your coverage, you’ll have to provide information about your household, insurance coverage and your income.
Make sure to have access to the following during open enrollment:
- Social security information for you and everyone in your household
- If you’re an immigrant, make sure to have any immigration papers handy
- Income and employer info (W-2, W-9 or pay stubs)
- Estimate of household income
- Policy number for existing insurance
- Plan ID for existing healthcare coverage
- Home and mailing info
Once you have all your info, you need to fill out an application for your individual health insurance policy.
After filling out a basic application, you will then have to browse through and pick a plan—expect this to take some time, as a single individual may have to peruse through over 100 packages and plans.
Once you pick a plan, you’ll have to go ahead and make a payment on the premium. Most of the health insurance Marketplaces refer consumers to specific insurance companies to make payments.
Those insurance companies can then determine the specific payment requirement or the deadline for payment. Bills can be processed and paid via mail, phone or through the insurer’s website.
Items to be aware of or to avoid
- Don’t miss the “active” open enrollment periods. During most enrollment periods, you don’t have to do anything. However, some providers may have an active period when coverage changes dramatically. Then it’s up to you to either switch up your coverage or approve any changes your provider made—if you let everything go, you may lose your coverage entirely.
- Keep an eye on benefit changes to your existing coverage, especially during active enrollment periods. Things may change enough to warrant switching to a different coverage.
- During enrollment periods, employers may drop their contributions to dependents. While contributions to employees can’t dip below 50 percent of the employee’s monthly premium, employers can lower contributions to dependents. Before enrolling dependents for coverage, double-check to make sure how much you have to cover and pay for on your own.
- Sometimes, certain coverage provided by employers may be unnecessary and too expensive. Make sure to check your coverage by consulting with another insurance provider—they might be able to provide you with better coverage too.