It’s health insurance sign-up time.
During the Obama administration, the so-called “open enrollment” period for health insurance was designed to encourage as many people as possible to sign up. It lasted a full 26 weeks during the first year of the ACA (Obamacare), and for the last three years the enrollment window has been 13 weeks.
That has drastically changed for 2018 because of the political battle over Obamacare.
Less than three months after taking office, the Trump administration cut this year’s open enrollment period to just six weeks. That gave health care consumers a much shorter window in which to make important decisions for the coming year.
The 2018 window opened at the start of November and runs until December 15.
Eight states (most of them “blue” states) and the District of Columbia, though, went over the administration’s head in unprecedented fashion. They took advantage of an ACA provision, which gives states operating their own exchanges the option to override federal enrollment guidelines and offer longer enrollment periods.
Here’s a look at where things stand.
States with Extended Open Enrollment Periods
Two states (plus Washington D.C.) have extended their open enrollment periods all the way until January 31, 2018 – which was going to be this year’s final sign-up date, until the Trump administration changed the enrollment period.
You could probably guess which states acted on their own because they’re the largest blue states on the map: New York and California.
Four more states will allow health insurance signups and carrier/plan changes through their exchanges until mid-January. In Colorado enrollment is open until the 12th of January, it’s the 14th in Minnesota, Washington State consumers have until January 15th to enroll, and in Massachusetts the deadline is the 23rd.
Finally, two states have extended the sign-up period until later in December: Connecticut until December 22nd, and Rhode Island until the 31st.
Three more states run their own health exchanges but are sticking with the federal December 15 enrollment deadline. They are Idaho, Maryland and Vermont.
Other Changes for 2018
The political fight over the future of the ACA has led to several other changes to the way that the system works.
First, the government doesn’t trust enrollees to tell the truth.
In past years, people could change their plans by claiming a “special circumstance” (like a marriage, birth or job switch that caused them to lose health insurance). That created a 60-day “special enrollment period” which didn’t have to coincide with open enrollment.
For 2018 coverage, enrollees can’t just claim a special circumstance. They have to prove it by submitting supporting documents right after they apply to change their coverage.
Second, it’s no longer possible to move to a different health plan during open enrollment unless current payments are up to date. There’s a common-sense reason for this change, though. Some people deliberately skipped health insurance payments toward the end of the year, and then switched to a new plan so they could “start fresh” without any penalty. Now, that loophole is closed.
Finally, the ongoing political battles over Obamacare mean that most public exchanges will have fewer carriers and plans to choose from – and that premiums will be higher.
But anyone who buys their health insurance through a public exchange, or watches the news, already knew that.
The option that offers the biggest selection of carriers and plans available anywhere, and finds health insurance priced to fit any budget, is a private health insurance marketplace like Candor.
The Candor app takes guesswork out of health care enrollment, making the process simple and easy to understand. It’s the smartest choice anyone can make during open enrollment.