Recent changes to open enrollment dates have extended the amount of time individuals have to sign up for health insurance. When signing up for 2022 health insurance, those using the marketplace will have a full 75 days to choose a plan and complete the signup process.
What is Open Enrollment?
The short and simple answer is that open enrollment is the period of time each year when individuals can sign up for health insurance or change their plans. While certain qualifying events can make a person eligible to sign up outside of open enrollment, for the most part, applications and changes to coverage must be completed during this time.
Why is There an Open Enrollment Period?
You can enroll in most other types of insurance whenever you need them, so why is health insurance any different?
The purpose of the open enrollment period is to discourage what is known as adverse selection. This refers to a situation in which a person does not have health insurance, becomes sick, signs up for health insurance, and then cancels their plan once they are well.
When adverse selection becomes significant within a health insurance marketplace, it can skew the cost to insurance providers because healthy people are less likely to sign up. An open enrollment period encourages everyone to sign up and be covered in case the worst happens.
Many Types of Health Insurance Use Open Enrollment Periods
Not all types of health insurance use open enrollment periods, but many do. Some of the most common that do follow these periods are:
- Job-based health coverage
- Individual market health coverage
If you plan to apply for one of these types of coverage or have one of these types of coverage and want to make changes to your plan, you will most likely need to do so during open enrollment.
The Open Enrollment Period for 2022
The dates for 2022 open enrollment include a larger window of dates than in previous years:
November 1st, 2021 – The Beginning of Open Enrollment
This is the first day an individual can enroll, re-enroll, or change their insurance plan via the Health Insurance Marketplace
December 15th, 2021 – The Last Day for Enrollment
For coverage that will begin January 1st, 2022, the last day to enroll is December 15th, 2021.
January 1st, 2022 – The First Day of Coverage
For individuals who have enrolled by December 15th and paid their first premium, coverage begins on January 1st.
January 15th, 2022 – Finally Day to Enroll or Amend Plans for 2022
If you do not make changes to your plan or sign up for a new plan by December 15th, you are not out of luck. You can still sign up until January 15th, 2022, but your starting date will not be the 1st of the year.
If you do not sign up or make changes by January 15th, 2022, you will need to have a qualifying event or wait until the open enrollment for 2023 coverage.
February 1st, 2022 – The First Day of Coverage
For those who signed up and paid their first premium after December 15th but before January 15th, coverage will begin on February 1st, 2022.
February 1st, 2022: 2022 coverage starts if you enrolled by January 15th, 2022, and you've paid your first premium.
Medicare Open Enrollment Dates Are Different
One important thing to note about the dates above is that they do not apply to Medicare open enrollment. The dates to sign up for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans are October 15th to December 7th each year.
Job-Based Open Enrollment Periods Can Be at Any Time
If you are covered by your employer’s group health insurance plan, they can set the open enrollment dates at any time they would like. That said, it is most common for them to have open enrollment in the fall to ensure coverage begins on the first of the year.
Qualifying Events Can Allow You to Get Health Insurance or Change Your Coverage After Open Enrollment
If you do not sign up for coverage during open enrollment, you will need to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to a qualifying event.
Examples of qualifying events include:
- Involuntarily losing health coverage: This includes ending your
employment (whether voluntarily or not), aging off of a parent's health plan, the expiration of COBRA, and divorce, amongst others.
- Moving: If you move out of your plan's service area or move somewhere that has different plans available, you can qualify for a Special Enrollment Period.
- Having a baby or adopting a child
- No longer being eligible for Medicaid or CHIP
- Becoming a member of a federally recognized tribe
- Status as an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Corporation shareholder
- Becoming a citizen of the United States
- Leaving incarceration
- Beginning or leaving service as an AmeriCorps State and National, NCCC, or VISTA member
Some examples of events that will not qualify you for this special enrollment period include cancelation of previous coverage due to not paying the premiums or voluntarily canceling coverage.
The above is also true of making changes to your plan. You must qualify under a qualifying event or do so during open enrollment.
What You Need to Know About Supplemental Insurance During the Open Enrollment Period
Some people choose to add additional insurance known as supplemental insurance. There are many types of this coverage, but they all have the same goal: helping the policyholder pay for medical services and out-of-pocket expenses that are not covered by their main insurance policy.
In some cases, supplemental insurance pays for deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance, while other policies pay for services that are not covered by your plan. Still, others give you cash benefits paid overtime or in a single lump sum.
Fixed Indemnity Supplemental Insurance
Depending on the specifics of your plan, fixed indemnity supplemental insurance can pay you cash benefits for out-of-pocket medical expenses, transportation costs, help with child care, meals, or other household duties, or even to pay routine monthly bills. That money can also be used for things like:
- Making up for lost wages
- Covering the cost of health-related transportation needs
- Unexpected costs you incur during an illness or injury
Dental and Vision Coverage
Most medical coverage does not include dental and vision. You can choose to add this on for an additional fee.
Critical Illness Insurance
Sometimes known as disease-specific insurance, this coverage is meant to help pay for the costs of a significant illness such as cancer.
Hospital Indemnity Insurance
Often referred to as hospital confinement insurance, this coverage pays a cash benefit to covered persons who are confined to a hospital due to injury or illness.
Accidental Death and Supplemental Accident Plans
There are several types of accidental death and supplement accident plans, and the options within those categories vary by state. Regardless of the specific coverage, the goal of these plans is to compensate beneficiaries in the event the covered party dies or is seriously injured.