Open Enrollment is a period of time each year when you can sign up for health insurance. If you don’t sign up for health insurance during this time period, you probably won’t be allowed to sign up for health insurance until the next open enrollment period.

If you are eligible and apply for health insurance during open enrollment, the health plan has to ensure you. Job based health insurance open enrollment periods are set by your employer and can happen at any time of the year. However, most large employers schedule their open enrollment period in the Fall so that new coverage begins on January 1 of the next year. Uninsured people who fail to enroll in a health plan during this enrollment period won’t be able to buy health insurance on the exchanges until the next open enrollment period. They will also face a tax penalty for being uninsured.

Why Not Just Let People Sign Up Whenever They Want ?

Having a limited open enrollment period protects health insurance companies from people trying to game the system. For example, if you could sign up for health insurance or switch plans at any time, what’s to keep you from waiting until you’re sick to get health insurance?

This would increase the financial risk for insurance companies and cause health insurance premiums to go up for everyone.

At the same time, an open enrollment period also protects consumers. It allows people who otherwise might not be insurable to get health insurance without facing underwriting.

The Exception to Open Enrollment

Most insurance sources have an exception that allows you to enroll “outside of open enrollment” under extenuating circumstances.

Known as a “special enrollment period”, this exception allows you to sign up for health insurance if you lost your other health insurance because you lost your job, moved, got married, got divorced, became widowed, had a baby, or your COBRA insurance expired.

More Than Just Health Insurance

Most employers allow you to sign up for or change other job based benefits during open enrollment. You may be able to sign up for or adjust the amount of life insurance, disability insurance, vision, dental, legal, 401 K and more.