Time to enroll in a health plan again? Already?

Time to enroll in a health plan again? Already?

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 school supplies. Sound familiar?  The same sign-up idea goes for open enrollment for health care insurance.

What’s the Rush?
Most registration windows are just a special few days or weeks. This helps the folks running the class or club get ready to do their best job for you. They can reserve that bigger room. They can order enough supplies at the best price. The happier you are with what you get, the more likely you are to sign up again. Remember, timing is everything. 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 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. 

Believe it or not, at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) 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 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 go over all of the ways we tell you about those plans. We look at all the forms we ask you to fill out. No detail is too small. Why? Because we love what we do! More importantly, we know it matters to you and yours.

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 change jobs or move, 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. Sixty days can sneak by in a heartbeat and then you are really limited.

If you miss special or open enrollment, and need something to tide you over until the next open enrollment, you can get short-term coverageBut it doesn’t include all the benefits a qualified plan does.

Do Employers Have Open Enrollment Too?
Absolutely! Open enrollment lets employers and insurers offer their best policies and services.  It also gives workers a chance to change their plan. They do this for one or two 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. 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 about Medicare?
Yes there is open enrollment for Medicare 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 bcbsok.com if you or someone you care about is turning age 65 soon.

Help Us Help You Get Ready
Make 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 August 15, 2015: Revised 2018