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How many times in life do we sign up for things? Maybe our parents signed us up for the best daycare before we were even born. Then there are the club registrations, the spirit wear orders, and the senior yearbook we want to have in twenty years.
Life is One Big “Open Enrollment” I can’t stand missing registration deadlines. There go the cool T-shirts and good time slots. Don’t get me started about summer camps and purchasing books for school. Does this sound familiar? The same sign-up idea goes for open enrollment for health care insurance.
What’s the Hurry? Most registration windows are just a special few days or weeks. This helps the folks running the registration process get ready to do their best job for you. They can reserve that bigger room. They can plan to have enough supplies at the best price. The happier you are with what you get, the more likely you are to sign up again. Plus, giving help is easier when all your needs are known ahead of time. That being said, you really don’t want to miss open enrollment if you can possibly avoid it. Mark your calendar now!
Again? Already? The next open enrollment period for individuals will be Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. “But, didn’t we just go through open enrollment?” you ask. It does seem like it, doesn’t it? Well, open enrollment happens every year. It’s a bit like an annual checkup for your insurance coverage. A new Special Enrollment Period is taking place from February 15, 2021 to August 15, 2021, you can apply for a 2021 BCBSMT Individual health plan for yourself or your family.
Here at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) we’ve been hard at work getting ready for open enrollment period for a while now. From now through the end of year, we’re fine tuning everything. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (1993), year after year, we get ready for open enrollment, learning from past years on how to do it a little better each time. We listen to what you tell us. We talk to doctors’ offices. We look at trends in claims. We work on the plans we offer. We look at all the forms we ask you to fill out. No detail is too small to us. Why? Because we love what we do! More importantly, we know how much it matters to you.
What about Medicare? Yes, Medicare has open enrollment too. This year, Annual Enrollment Period is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. There are quite a few special details involved with Medicare enrollment periods. 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 just getting Medicare. Some apply only to people who already have it. Some dates relate to when you turn 65. Some opportunities are once a year. You can get all the details at bcbsmt.com if you or someone you care about is turning age 65 soon.
Do Employers Have Open Enrollment Too? Absolutely! Open enrollment lets insurers and employers offer their best policies and services. It gives the workers a chance to change their plan. They do this for a few months, every year, to make sure employees have the health insurance they need before the company renews policies for the next year. After the company’s open enrollment, guess what? An employee also needs to have a life event to make changes to his or her coverage before the next open enrollment period. The dates may be different, but people with employer or group insurance ask themselves the same questions and gather the same documents to make their choice during open enrollment.
What is so “open” about 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 move or change jobs, or the headcount at home changes, 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 stopwatch. You only have 60 days from your life event.
If you miss special or open enrollment, and need something to tide you over until the next open enrollment, you can get short-term coverage. But it doesn’t include all the benefits a qualified plan does.
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Originally published August 18, 2015: Revised 2018
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