Open enrollment is the only time outside of special enrollment that you can enroll in health insurance. Each insurance has its own open enrollment period. Below, we cover open enrollment for individuals and families, job-based coverage, Medicaid, Medicare, and more.

When Is Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment differs depending upon the insurance type. Here are the most common open enrollment periods:

Individual and Family Open Enrollment

Private Individual and Family Coverage (Inside and Outside ObamaCare’s Health Insurance Marketplaces): October 1st, 2015 – December 15th, 2015 for 2016 and beyond (subject to change, was extended for 2014 and 2015).

Medicaid and CHIP: 365 days a year (can start up to 2 months retroactively)

Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare Initial Enrollment: You are first eligible to enroll in Original Medicare during the 7 month period surrounding your 65th birthday. That is 3 months before, the month during, and 3 months after your 65th birthday. You can also enroll in supplemental Medicare during this time. If you miss enrolling in Original or Supplemental costs may increase.

Medicare Initial Enrollment for Disability: You are first eligible to enroll during the 7-month period that starts 3 months before your 25th month of getting Social Security or RRB disability benefits and ends 3 months after your 25th month of getting disability benefits. Your coverage will begin the first day of the month after you ask to join a plan. If you join during one of the 3 months before you first get Medicare, your coverage will begin the first day of your 25th month of entitlement to disability payments.

Medicare General Enrollment Period: Between January 1 – March 31 each year. If you didn’t sign up for Part A and/or Part B (for which you must pay premiums) when you were first eligible and you aren’t eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (see below), you can sign up during the general enrollment period. Late fees may apply.

Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage: October 15 – December 7 (you can enroll in supplemental or change plans).

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period: January 1 – February 14 (you can switch back to original Medicare from Advantage and add Part D if needed without penalty).

Employer-Based Coverage

Open Enrollment for Employees: A new-hire typically has at least 30 days to enroll in a plan. There can be up to a 90-day waiting period. Aside from that, check with your employer for start and end dates of coverage and job-based enrollment periods.

Limited Benefit Coverage Open Enrollment

Short term and Travelers Tnsurance: 365 days a year

Dental and Vision: These typically share enrollment periods with other coverage types. You can enroll in a dental or vision plan when you enroll in another health coverage type. If you aren’t enrolling in another type, then dental and vision are typically sold during open enrollment for private coverage for individuals and families.

Understanding ObamaCare’s Open Enrollment Periods

Under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), all private health insurance (both on and off ObamaCare’s Marketplace) share an open enrollment period. Unless you qualify for special enrollment or another insurance type, this is the only time of year individuals and families can enroll in a health plan.

Open enrollment for ObamaCare closed February 15, 2015. Moving forward, open enrollment for 2016 starts October 1st, 2015, and ends December 15, 2015. Dates are subject to change. You still have special enrollment options outside of open enrollment and may qualify for other types of coverage.

Here is an overview of ObamaCare’s open enrollment periods:

  • For 2014 coverage, the open enrollment period was October 1st, 2013 – March 31st, 2014
  • Open enrollment 2015 ran from November 15th, 2014 – February 15th, 2015.
  • Moving forward, open enrollment dates are expected to go from October 1st – December 15th. So, open enrollment 2016 will be October 1st, 2015 – December 15th, 2015.

Special Enrollment Periods

Just like open enrollment, each health insurance type has its own special enrollment periods.

A special enrollment period is a time outside of open enrollment when you can enroll in health insurance. Each coverage type has unique special enrollment periods.

Special Enrollment for Individuals and Families (Health Insurance Marketplace Only)

  • You may qualify for a special enrollment period of (typically) 60 days following certain life events that involve a change in family status (for example, marriage or birth of a child) or loss of other health coverage.
  • Job-based plans must allow special enrollment periods of 30 days (giving you no less than 30 days of coverage while you switch to a Marketplace plan).