Why have an Open and Special Enrollment Period?

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One of the major changes under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is the introduction of Open Enrollment. Open Enrollment is a special period during the year when you can buy health insurance or change your health insurance plan.

The 2016 Open Enrollment Period ran from November 1, 2015 to January 31, 2016.

The 2017 Open Enrollment opens on November 1, 2016 and runs through January 31, 2017.

To buy insurance outside Open Enrollment, you’ll need to have a qualifying life event which triggers a Special Enrollment Period. To learn more about qualifying life events and Special Enrollment Periods, read more here.

So why does Open Enrollment exist?

Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could raise insurance premiums or refuse coverage to an individual based on their medical history, and specifically, pre-existing conditions. The ACA made it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage or take into account pre-existing conditions. This creates a problem for the insurance industry: if they can’t refuse people based on prior illness, some people would just wait until they got sick to buy insurance, which would be a financial disaster for the insurance companies (since they depend on healthy members paying their premiums to cover the cost of treating sick members – that’s how insurance works!).

If you are a registered member of a Native American tribe, none of this applies to you. You can enroll in a plan at any time (once per month) and cost-sharing reduction is available on all plans – not just silver plans.

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