Open enrollment runs from November 1st to December 15th, but there are 2 possible ways to get health insurance if you miss it

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  • For most states, open enrollment for 2020 coverage begins on November 1st and ends December 15th.
  • If you miss the open enrollment period, you generally won't be able to enroll in a healthcare plan unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.
  • Medicaid, CHIP, and short-term health insurance policies don't use open enrollment - you can apply to those programs at any time.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Open enrollment is the set time period each year when you can shop for and enroll in a health insurance plan. It's also your opportunity to modify or cancel your existing coverage.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), no one can be rejected for health coverage, even if they have pre-existing conditions. However, if you miss the open enrollment period, you generally won't be eligible to apply for coverage later.

Let's take a look at when open enrollment takes place and the options that are available to you if you happen to miss the open enrollment period.

When is open enrollment?

For most states, open enrollment for 2020 coverage begins on November 1st and ends December 15th.

If your state uses the Healthcare.gov exchange, this will be your open enrollment period. However, if your state uses its own exchange, it may have a wider open enrollment period.

What happens if I miss open enrollment?

If you miss the open enrollment period, you generally won't be able to enroll in a healthcare plan. However, there are two main exceptions.

Special enrollment periods

First, you can enroll in a health insurance plan at any time throughout the year if you qualify for a special enrollment period. Here are a few events that can trigger a special enrollment period:

  • You got married
  • You moved
  • You had a baby, adopted a child, or took in a foster child
  • You lost insurance through a divorce or legal separation
  • You lost insurance due to the death of someone on your marketplace plan
  • You lost employer-sponsored coverage
  • You lost eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid

Learn more about events that can trigger a special enrollment period.

It's important to point out that you'll need to apply for coverage within 60 days of your qualifying event. If you don't apply within 60 days, you'll lose eligibility for special enrollment and will have to wait for the next general open enrollment period.

Types of health insurance that don't use open enrollment

If you missed the open enrollment period and don't qualify for a special enrollment period, you still have options. There are three types of insurance that you can apply for all year long:

  • Medicaid: If you qualify for your state's Medicaid program, you can enroll at any time.
  • CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program): Once again, if you meet the qualification criteria for your state's CHIP program, you can apply at any time throughout the year.
  • Short-term health insurance: This type of insurance can cover you until the next open enrollment period. However, these policies are not regulated by the ACA, so you could be denied coverage if you have pre-existing conditions.

It should also be pointed out that supplemental insurance can typically be bought at any time throughout the year. Examples of supplemental insurance policies include vision and dental, critical illness, accident, and hospitalization insurance.

Medigap is another type of supplemental insurance, designed specifically for those who have Medicare insurance. Medigap policies can help pay for things your original Medicare policy won't, like deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. Typically, you'll have a six-month open enrollment period for Medigap policies starting the month after you enroll in Medicare Part B.

To learn more about open enrollment and how to apply for marketplace insurance, check out Healthcare.gov.

More coverage from How to Do Everything: Money

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