Time to Enroll in a Health Plan Again? Already?

Time to Enroll in a Health Plan Again? Already?

Many of us aren’t big fans of deadlines. We’re busy. Finding time to knock out another thing on your to-do list can be inconvenient. With some deadlines, a little procrastination may not really matter. That’s not the case when it comes to enrolling in your annual health care plan.

With rising costs, no one wants to be caught without quality health care. So, when open enrollment rolls around every year, it’s important to make it a priority.

Here’s What You Need to Know

Every year there is a set window of time when you can sign up for a health care plan. This special timeframe is called open enrollment, because anyone can (and should) sign up for coverage for the next year.

Outside of open enrollment, you can’t sign up unless you have a “life event.” If you change jobs, get married or have a baby, you can get health insurance during a special enrollment period. But act quickly. You only have 60 days after your life event to enroll.

If you miss the open or special enrollment periods, you can get short-term plan, but it will only offer limited benefits – not the full scope of member benefits you get with a regular plan.

Why the Strict Deadlines?

Organizing and limiting enrollment periods to small windows of time help insurers optimize benefits for their members. They can negotiate the best possible prices for medications, supplies, services and care when they know how many people they are serving. Open enrollment helps make all this possible.

What About Medicare?

Medicare has its own enrollment period. This year, annual enrollment is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. In addition, there are different enrollment dates for all the different parts (Medicare Part A and Part B), Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C), and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D). Some dates apply to people who are new to Medicare. Others are for people who already have it. Some dates are tied to the date you turn 65. Some enrollment periods are annual. You can find all the details at bcbsmt.com/medicare.

Do Employers Have Open Enrollment?

Absolutely! Open enrollment lets companies offer their best policies and services. It also gives employees a chance to update their plan. Every year, managers remind employees to review their selections and make sure they have the health insurance they want before the company renews policies for the next year. After the company’s open enrollment, employees must have a “life event” to change their coverage.

Just Like Clockwork

Annual open enrollment usually takes place from Nov. 1 through mid-December. The actual dates can change from year to year, so check the dates when enrollment time comes around. Put it on your calendar so it doesn’t sneak up on you.

Believe it or not, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) spends most of the year hard at work getting ready for open enrollment. Starting in early spring, we begin to fine tune everything. We listen to your feedback. We adjust the benefits we offer. We go through the forms we ask you to fill out. We look at how and when to tell you about our plans. No detail is too small. Why? Because we know details matter.

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 8/18//2015: Revised 2018, 2021