- November 1, 2016: Open Enrollment begins. Apply for or change your coverage.
- December 15, 2016: Deadline in order to have coverage that begins on January 1, 2017 (if you apply on December 16 you’re coverage will most likely not start until February 1).
- December 31, 2016: Coverage ends for 2015 plans. You will be auto-renewed if you don’t change your plan.
- January 31, 2017: This is the last day you can apply for 2017 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.
If you qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance, you will likely want to buy health insurance through your employer and will not be affected by the fall open enrollment period for the government-run marketplaces. Ask your employer when its open enrollment period is.
Open enrollment is not for life insurance or long-term care insurance. Those are completely separate products that you can buy on your own any time of year. It’s also not for Medicare. The fall open enrollment period for Medicare is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2016.
All health plans must cover 10 essential benefits
All health plans, no matter the level, must provide some coverage for at least 10 essential benefits. They are:
- Outpatient care including chronic disease management
- Emergency care
- Pregnancy and newborn care
- Mental health and substance abuse services
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitation services and devices
- Lab tests
- Preventive and wellness services
- Dental and vision care for children
The level of coverage for these services can vary. All the plans in the marketplace must provide consumers with a brief, understandable description of what they cover and how their plan works. The Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) must be posted on the plan’s website. Check out the SBCs for the different plans you are considering. This is a good way to compare plans and benefits, Kupper says.