Although this seems like a simple question, it is first helpful to have a simple understanding of the concept of open enrollment, and what it constitutes. The ever changing political and governmental scene is responsible for the administrative changes in the open enrollment dates and concept.
Open enrollment is the period or window of time during a calendar year in which individuals can register for their yearly plan of health insurance. This usually takes place within a 30 to 45 day period near the end of the year (generally in November or December). The system is designed to provide coverage to individuals in the United States during this set time to discourage “adverse selection”, or the action of enrolling in a health care plan only when it is needed. This system encourages individuals to maintain health care coverage throughout the year for use in that year period.
The importance of open enrollment periods lie in the systems of the insurance providers. The often 15 day window between open enrollment deadlines and the start dates of insurance plans provides insurance companies with enough time to ensure that they have enough providers in their network to cover patients. Therefore, the insurance companies need to ensure that the doctors and specialists within their networks can handle the amount of patients that are now enrolled in a plan with the providers in networks. If the providers cannot account for the number of patients that are now enrolled in a plan’s coverage, the open enrollment window allows for the insurance company to add new providers to the network to cover the potential demand for services in the upcoming year.
Regarding the fast-approaching end of the 2021 calendar year, the national open enrollment window ranges from November 1st until December 15th for a January 1st start date of a health insurance plan. Since most health care plans end on December 31st at 11:59, to avoid any gaps in coverage, one would need to register for their new insurance plan within the given 45 day window.
For a February 1st start date, the open enrollment period extends from December 16th to January 15th. These dates are the nationwide guidelines for open enrollment.
Although the national plan holds these open enrollment dates, some states have separate exchanges for the affordable care act policy enrollment. However, the state guidelines can often differ due to differences in state mandates and policies for insurance.
Currently 18 states (including Washington D.C.) have private exchanges for health insurance (and therefore different deadlines). Please see the list below to determine the open enrollment schedule for each of the states that have a separate exchange.
Idaho, Maryland: November 1, 2021 to December 15, 2021
Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington: November 1, 2021 to January 15, 2022
Massachusetts: November 1, 2021 to January 23, 2022
California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington D.C.: November 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022
New York: November 16, 2021 to January 31, 2022
Please be advised these dates may be extended depending upon open enrollment and governmental policies. We have seen the extension in recent years, and may expect this pattern to carry over into the 2022 year. Although deadlines serve as a cut off point for enrollment into a new or existing health insurance plan, there is potential for extension. A prime example of this would be the 2020 open enrollment schedule for 2021 insurance coverage. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, open enrollment continued throughout the 2021 calendar year, and closed on August 15th, seven months after the usual ending. Although this window varied in states with private exchanges, this additional window opened the enrollment of health insurance plans far past the initial deadlines. According to predictions from All Access Insurance Network, the 2022 insurance open enrollment is predicted to end on March 15th with an April 1st start date.
In the case you are unable to register for health insurance during this period, there are additional programs that enable enrollment outside of these dates. This program is termed the “Special Enrollment Period”, which requires qualification for the open enrollment exemption. These qualifications include a major life event, loss of coverage, moving, marriage, and having or adopting a child. For additional information on qualification for the Special Enrollment Period, please visit healthcare.gov/screener.