What does "open enrollment" mean?
"Open enrollment" is the period of time, once a year, when you can choose or change your insurance provider or what kind of plan options you want -- for example, monthly premium and annual deductible amounts -- for the upcoming calendar year.
For the first year of Obamacare, the open enrollment period begins on October 1, 2013 and closes on March 31, 2014. For the second year, open enrollment begins on November 15, 2014 and closes on December 7, 2014. Thereafter, open enrollment is expected to run from October 15 to December 7 of any given year.
Choose carefully, because after you make your choices, you must live with them until the next open enrollment period.
"Special enrollment" is an exception to the enrollment rules available for job-based insurance. If you qualify for special enrollment, you can sign up during a time period outside of the open enrollment period.