Open enrollment for HealthCare.gov comes to an end on December 15th, smack in the middle of the holiday season. And while there may be the temptation to wait around this year to shop for coverage (we’re talking to you Christmas Eve shoppers) or not shop at all since you know you’ll be automatically re-enrolled into a plan, this year shopping and actively enrolling is more important than ever.
First, this year’s open enrollment is much shorter than before; only 45 days to enroll into coverage for 2018. That could be a big deal for the roughly one-fourth of marketplace enrollees each year who don’t actively shop for coverage and are automatically re-enrolled. This year, while open enrollment ends on December 15th, the federal agency running healthcare.gov won’t send marketplace consumers information about their auto-re-enrollment until December 17th. If that’s you, it means you will have missed the window to change plans if you don’t like the one you’ve been assigned.
In previous years, if you were auto-assigned a health plan, there was still time to come back and change plans, because open enrollment didn’t end until January 31st. This year, you won’t have the opportunity to change plans until next open enrollment (November 1, 2018) or you have a qualifying life event making you eligible for a special enrollment period.
Second, due to various policy changes this year, it’s more important than ever to compare plans, particularly if you receive premium tax credits to help pay for your monthly premium bill or are eligible for reduced cost-sharing plans.
And third, just as household income and people in your household may change from year to year, so do health plans. Provider networks change, benefits and cost-sharing change, and drug formularies change. If you want to ensure you’re not auto-assigned into a health plan you don’t want, make sure you shop and enroll during open enrollment – BEFORE it ends on December 15, 2017 – so you enroll in the plan that best meets your needs.