Time to enroll in a health plan again? Already?

Time to enroll in a health plan again? Already?

Time to enroll in a health plan again? Already?

How many times a year do we sign up for things? Maybe our parents enrolled us in the best daycare before we were even born. Then there are the club memberships, the spirit wear orders, and the senior yearbook we want to show our kids someday.

Life is One Big “Open Enrollment”
Who likes missing registration deadlines? You lose out on the cool T-shirts and good time slots.  Don’t get me started about summer camps and those popular school clubs. Sound familiar?  Open enrollment for health care insurance is basically the same idea.

Why the Hurry?
Most sign-up periods are just a special few days or weeks. This helps the people in charge of the class or club give you the best value. They can get that swanky room. They can buy enough supplies at the best price. The happier you are with your choice, the likelier you are to sign up again. Keep in mind, timing is everything. Planning is easier when all your needs are known ahead of time. That’s why you really shouldn’t miss open enrollment if you can possibly avoid it. Mark your calendar now!

Again? Already?
The next open enrollment for individuals will begin Nov. 1 “But, didn’t we just do open enrollment?” you think. It sure feels like it, doesn’t it? Well, it’s a bit like a checkup for your insurance coverage. Open enrollment happens annually. 

Believe it or not, at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) we’ve been hard at work getting ready for open enrollment since early spring. From now until the next open enrollment, we fine tune everything.  We listen to your feedback. We adjust the benefits we offer. We look at how and when we tell you about those plans. We go through the forms we ask you to fill out. No detail is too small. Why? Because we know details matter.

Why do we call it Open Enrollment?
Open means anyone can (and should) sign up for coverage for the next year. But, it’s only allowed within a set window of time. You may have heard it sometimes called an open enrollment period. 

Outside of open enrollment, you can’t get the “full” insurance unless you have a “life event” and qualify for special enrollment. So if you change jobs or get married, or have a baby, you can still get health insurance. It may even be the kind that gets those tax credits you hear about. Think: “the new kid in school mid-year.”  But start your timer. You only have 60 days after your life event. Sixty days can fly by in a blink and then you are really limited.

If you miss special or open enrollment, but you still need something until the next open enrollment, you can get short-term coverage.  But it won’t offer all the benefits a qualified plan does.

What about Medicare?
Yes there is open enrollment for Medicare too. This year, Annual Enrollment Period is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. There are different date ranges for the different plans (Medicare Part A and Part B, Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D).  Some date ranges are for people who are new to Medicare. Some apply only to people who already have it. Some dates relate to when you turn 65. Some opportunities are annual.  You can find all the details at bcbsil.com if you or someone you care about is looking for Medicare.

Do Employers Have Open Enrollment Too?
Absolutely! Open enrollment lets companies offer their best policies and services.  It also gives employees a chance to update their plan. For one or two months, every year, managers remind employees to check that they have the health insurance they want before the company renews policies for the next year. After the company’s open enrollment, guess what? Employees have to have a “life event” to change their coverage too. People with employer or group insurance ask themselves the same questions and collect the same documents to sign up during open enrollment.

Help Us Help You Get Ready
Be sure you get or keep the health insurance that works best for you.

Do you have everything you need to shop for a health plan?

Originally published July 1, 2015: Revised 2018