Understanding ObamaCare’s 2018 Open Enrollment Period

ObamaCare’s 2018 Open Enrollment period started November 1, 2017 and ends on December 15, 2017. However, some states extended enrollment until January 2018. See state-specific deadlines for 2018 coverage below.[1]

Open enrollment is the only time you can enroll in a health plan on the individual market without qualifying for special enrollment.

That means if you want to get cost assistance and avoid the monthly fee in 2018, you’ll need to get covered during open enrollment 2018 (which starts and ends in 2017 in most states).

If you want to keep it simple, you can sign up for HealthCare.Gov and find out if you qualify for cost assistance now. If you want more information about getting health coverage and cost assistance for 2018, keep reading.

NOTE: There are some changes to open enrollment this year, see CMS Issues Proposed Rule to Increase Patients’ Health Insurance Choices for 2018 or keep reading to learn the essentials.

Key Facts and Dates About Open Enrollment 2018

  • New regulations by the Trump Administration cut open enrollment in half this year. This applies to all states that use HealthCare.Gov (the federal marketplace). Meanwhile, some states are extending open enrollment in their state-based marketplaces until January 2018 (dates different by state).[2]
  • In states that did not extend open enrollment, enrollment for 2018 coverage will now run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2017, instead of ending Jan. 31, 2018 (as originally intended). You can see a list of state-specific open enrollment dates below.
  • It is important to realize that enrollment dates are subject to change each year. The new shorter enrollment period may or may not be the norm moving forward, and specific states may or may not extend enrollment each year.
  • To stay covered you need to maintain a health plan that counts as minimum essential coverage (for example all marketplace plans), or an exemption, for each month of the year. If you don’t maintain coverage or an exemption you technically owe the fee for not having coverage (although that was made enigmatic by a 2017 executive order).
  • Insurance purchased before the 15th of each month starts on the 1st of the next month. If you enroll after the 15th, your coverage won’t begin until the month after.
  • Given the above, you need to enroll by December 15th, 2017 to have a plan that starts on January 1st, 2018.
  • If you enroll in 2018 coverage in January, you’ll have a “short coverage gap.” Everyone is allowed a short coverage gap of fewer than three months each year (meaning as long as you have a qualifying health insurance plan by January 31st, you will not owe the fee, but have to take the short coverage gap exemption on form 8965). You also may have a period of time during which you have no health insurance.
  • If you miss open enrollment, your only options are Short Term Health Insurance, employer-based coverageMedicaid, and CHIP. Those who miss open enrollment may find themselves with no other options and may end up owing the fee.
  • Medicare has a unique open enrollment period as do other types of health insurance sold outside the private individual and family market. If you qualify for Medicare, you don’t have to worry about ObamaCare for yourself (although you are still responsible for ensuring your tax family gets covered if you are the head-of-household). Learn more about ObamaCare and Medicare.
  • Moving forward, all of this is subject to change per the terms of a repeal and replacement plan. With that said, it is unlikely 2018 open enrollment will be affected by changes to the law this close to open enrollment.
  • You can learn all about open enrollment here. Learn more about what to do if you miss the deadline here. See our main ObamaCareFacts page for more details.

State-Specific Open Enrollment Dates For 2018 Open Enrollment

State Specific deadlines for open enrollment 2018:[3][4]

  • Connecticut (Nov 1, 2017 – Dec. 22, 2017)
  • Colorado (Nov 1, 2017 – Jan. 12, 2018)
  • Maryland (Nov 1, 2017 – Dec. 22, 2017)
  • New York (Nov 1, 2017 – Jan. 31, 2018)
  • Massachusetts (Nov 1, 2017 – Jan. 23, 2018)
  • Washington (Nov. 1, 2017 – Jan 15, 2018)
  • California (Nov 1, 2017 – Jan. 12, 2018)
  • Minnesota (Nov 1, 2017 – Jan. 14, 2018)
  • Connecticut (Nov 1, 2017 – Jan. 31, 2018)
  • District of Columbia (Nov.1, 2017 – Jan. 31, 2018)
  • Rhode Island (Nov 1, 2017 – Dec. 31, 2017)
  • *Flordia, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and those effected by Hurricane Harvey are eligible for an extension until Dec. 31, 2017.

Idaho and Vermont were legally permitted to extend open enrollment. However, we did not hear any updates on those states.

NOTE: The states noted above may decide to extend enrollment and the dates published above are subject to change. We will update the site to reflect changes as we learn about them.

Additional Advice About Open Enrollment 2018

Below are a few additional points to consider.

  • In the past open enrollment in the federal marketplace HealthCare.Gov has been extended. Despite this, one should never count on extensions. We advise shopping early to avoid missing the official deadline. If things change, we’ll make sure to keep you updated.
  • If you qualify for cost assistance, think carefully about how much you take up front in Advanced Premium Tax Credits. Cost assistance is based on household income and family size as compared to the Federal Poverty Level. If you project your income inaccurately, you may end up owing back tax credits on form 8962 at tax time. This is especially true if you or a tax filer in your household gains or loses income. Medicaid and out-of-pocket assistance don’t require repayment.
  • We advise those looking for coverage to shop on their state’s official marketplace or HealthCare.gov (in states that use the federal marketplace). This will ensure shoppers know all their options regarding cost assistance and get a major medical plan that counts as minimum essential coverage. Shoppers can also contact an online or in-person broker (like the ones featured on our site) for help selecting a marketplace health plan or off-marketplace plan. In some cases, shoppers can also go directly to an insurer although this may require going directly to an insurer’s office, as insurers are encouraging shoppers to use the exchange. Learn more about shopping for private health plans outside the marketplace.
  • See also maximums and deductibles and HSA info for plans. An HSA is an excellent way to save tax dollars for those who have enough money to fund them.

BOTTOM LINE: Start your journey at HealthCare.gov. Make sure you are not only signed up but enrolled in a plan by December 15th, 2017. This is the deadline for all states if you want coverage that starts by Jan 1st, 2018, or by the state-specific deadline in select states if you don’t mind your plan starting after Jan 1st. We suggest paying careful attention to cost sharing and networks when shopping for a plan. When in doubt, a Silver Plan that qualifies for an HSA is typically a safe bet. Get more tips for shopping for getting the best health plan.

Citations

  1. Dates and deadlines for 2018 health insurance
  2. CMS Issues Proposed Rule to Increase Patients’ Health Insurance Choices for 2018
  3. States That Have Extended Health Insurance Open Enrollment for 2018 (and States That Still Can)
  4. Andy Slavitt Twitter