What does "open enrollment" mean under Obama Care (the Affordable Care Act or ACA)?

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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 2017 health care plans, the open enrollment period will run from November 1, 2106 to January 31, 2017.

Choose carefully, because after you make your choices, you must usually live with them until the next open enrollment period.

"Special enrollment" is an exception to the usual enrollment rules. If you qualify for special enrollment, you can sign up during a time period outside of the open enrollment period. The circumstances under which you may qualify for special enrollment include:

  • moving to a new state
  • having a baby or adopting a child
  • getting married or divorced
  • leaving a job and losing your insurance
  • losing coverage under your parents’ plan
  • losing other types of health insurance
  • gaining status as a member of an Indian tribe
  • becoming an American citizen, or
  • getting out of prison.


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