What Is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance? - Zupnick Associates

by Stephen Weru )

It’s that time of the year again. The period where your HR manager keeps reminding you that it’s open enrollment season.

However, for the past several years, you’ve been wondering:

  •  What is open enrollment period for health insurance?

  • Why is there an open enrollment period every year?

  • Can I register for Insurance after the open enrollment period?

Today’s article will answer all these questions. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about open enrollment. This includes information on the dates to register as well as how COVID-19 has affected enrollment dates.

Let’s get right into It.

What is Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment is a window of time every year where Americans can make changes to their health insurance plans. During this period, you can:

  • Sign up for a health insurance plan for the first time.

  • Re-enroll to your current insurance plan.

  • Replace your current health plan with another.

  •  Add beneficiaries or make changes to your existing plan.

  • Disenroll from your current health insurance plan.

During open enrollment, your insurance company isn’t required to ask for evidence of insurability and is also not allowed to use your medical history when deciding on whether to offer a policy or not.

Why Do Open Enrollment Periods Exist?

To explain why open enrollment exists, consider this scenario.

You choose not to purchase health insurance. Several months later, you notice symptoms of a chronic illness and rush to register for an insurance plan. After visiting the doctor, you find out that you have stage two throat cancer. Although you’ve just paid a small amount, you expect your insurance company to spend thousands of dollars on your treatment.

Is that fair?

This is why open enrollment exists. It exists as a way of protecting health insurance companies from the adverse financial losses they may experience if people only registered for health plans once diagnosed with a chronic illness.

If you don’t sign up for health insurance during the open enrollment period, you can’t sign up for a health plan until the next enrollment period. However, an exception is given if you experience life-changing events such as:

  • Marriage or divorce

  • Death of a dependant or spouse

  • Loss of coverage from employment

  • Birth or adoption of a child

  • Loss of coverage from a spouse

What Health Insurance Companies Use Open Enrollment?

Most health insurance companies in the United States have an open enrollment period every year. These include

There are also health insurance plans where you can enroll at any time as long as you qualify. Some examples include:

  • Medicaid

  • Short term health insurance

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Open Enrollment Dates For 2021 Coverage

Open enrollment periods vary depending on your employer and the health insurance plan that you choose. However, for most insurance companies, it’s usually near when the next coverage period begins, which is generally on January 1.

For coverage beginning January 1, 2021, Medicare open enrollment will run from October 15 to December 7, 2020. Registration for individual and job-based health insurance plans will run from November 1 to December 15, 2020.

However, owing to COVID-19, some states have extended the enrollment period. In New York, open enrollment will run through January 31.  For individuals who sign up before December 15, coverage will start from January 1. However, coverage purchased after December 15 will only be effective from February 1, 2021.


Health insurance provides you with a safety net for when you get sick or injured. With open enrollment periods, you have the opportunity to change or re-enroll to your current plan.

Maybe you feel dissatisfied with your current insurance provider. Perhaps you want to add a beneficiary to your plan, or maybe you want to keep your current employee health insurance plan; the open enrollment period is the time to make these changes.

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