If I don’t make changes to my plan and just let it auto-renew for January, am I stuck with it for the rest of the year?

Q. If I don’t make changes to my plan and just let it auto-renew for January, am I stuck with it for the rest of the year?

Obamacare open enrollment guide

Our updated Insider’s Guide to Obamacare’s Open Enrollment offers time-saving strategies for selecting coverage during open enrollment. (Click the image for the latest edition.)

A. Yes, unless you experience a qualifying event later in the year.

Open enrollment for 2019 coverage began on November 1, 2018, and ends December 15, 2018 in nearly every state. There are seven state-run exchanges that have extended open enrollment windows; everywhere else, open enrollment ends December 15.

So in most states, open enrollment ends before the start of 2019, with all plans selected during open enrollment taking effect on January 1. Prior to 2018, open enrollment extended into January, allowing people the opportunity to switch plans after the start of the year. But that’s no longer an option in most states unless you have a qualifying event.

If your health plan terminates at the end of 2018 and you’re mapped to a new plan for 2019, you may have a special enrollment period that continues for 60 days after your plan ended (so, until March 1, 2019), during which you can pick from among any of the available options in your area. But this is limited to situations in which the insurer exits the exchange or the full individual market, or makes a major change to plan designs, such as switching everyone from PPOs to HMOs. Changes to the benefit structure itself would not warrant a special enrollment period. Although there were widespread insurer exits in 2017 and 2018, as well as transitions away from the PPO model, the market is much more stable for 2019, with insurer exits almost non-existent. So very few people are likely to qualify for this special enrollment period in early 2019.

Read more about why it’s important to shop around and why auto-renewal probably is not your best bet.

Shorter open enrollment was new for 2018

Open enrollment for 2016 and 2017 followed a November 1 — January 31 schedule, and was slated to be the same for 2018 coverage as well. After that, starting with enrollment in the fall of 2018 (for 2019 coverage) it was scheduled to switch to November 1 — December 15. But in April 2017, HHS finalized a market stabilization rule that included a switch to the shorter open enrollment period one year early — in the fall of 2017 instead of 2018.

Going forward, open enrollment will continue to follow the November 1 — December 15 schedule, with coverage effective January 1.

Source: health insurance