States That Have Extended Health Insurance Open Enrollment for 2018 (and States That Still Can)

2018 Health Insurance Open Enrollment | States That Have Extended Health Insurance Open Enrollment for 2018 (and States That Still Can) | The CheckUp by HealthCare.com
Image: Tiffany Von Armin / Flickr

The health insurance Open Enrollment Period for 2018 will be much shorter than ever, putting pressure on consumers to make quicker decisions about their healthcare coverage.

Ten states and counting have rejected the 6-week heath insurance open enrollment period laid out by the Trump Administration, and instead have set new deadlines that extend beyond the federal government’s 2018 timeline.

Get a Free Health Insurance Quote

  • Get an instant quote for health insurance plans
  • Compare prices from over 300 carriers
  • Find a plan that fits your budget
Please enter a valid US Zip Code

When Is Open Enrollment for Health Insurance?

The open enrollment for health insurance to buy healthcare coverage in 2018 is six weeks long – lasting from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017. Prior to this year, every other Open Enrollment Period we’ve had was two to four times longer. More states could challenge this little-known provision in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” or “ACA”), but there’s not much time left.

States That Have Extended Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period Illustration | The CheckUp by HealthCare.com

When Does Open Enrollment End? It Depends on Where You Live

Ten States Extend 2018 Open Enrollment for Health Insurance

So far, ten states have quietly taken the unprecedented move of extending the 2018 open enrollment for health insurance – far beyond the federal deadline.

Instead of ending health insurance open enrollment on December 15, 2017, every health insurer in these states must participate in open enrollment for the 2018 plan year through the following deadlines:

  • California: November 1, 2017 – January 31, 2018
  • Colorado: November 1, 2017 – January 12, 2018
  • Connecticut: November 1, 2017 – December 22, 2017
  • District of Columbia: November 1, 2017 – January 31, 2018
  • Maryland: November 1, 2017 – December 22, 2017
  • Massachusetts: November 1, 2017 – January 23, 2018
  • Minnesota: November 1, 2017 – January 14, 2018
  • New York: November 1, 2017 – January 31, 2018
  • Rhode Island: November 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017
  • Washington: November 1, 2017 – January 15, 2018

Shoutout to California, New York and the District of Columbia for thumbing their nose at the new 2018 health insurance open enrollment dates. Their open enrollment period of January 31 lasts until the originally-planned end date.

Which Other States Can Still Extend Their Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period?

Health insurance open enrollment extensions for Obamacare could be seen as a partisan issue, with Democrats in favor of longer enrollment periods and Republicans against them. However, open enrollment benefits are popular enough for very fine folks on all sides to have embraced them in the past.

Not every state can change the dates for the upcoming open enrollment for health insurance. The two remaining states that can still extend their health insurance open enrollment dates are:

  • Idaho
  • Vermont

Both of these states has made some sort of extension to their health insurance Open Enrollment Period in the past. It’s quite possible that one or more will do so again before the year is over.

States can extend open enrollment at any time, even once it’s already underway. For instance, Maryland waited until December 2017 to extend their open enrollment.

Facing a Shrinking 2018 Health Insurance Open Enrollment

Shrinking Open Enrollment Period | The CheckUp by HealthCare.com

Obamacare’s first Open Enrollment Period for 2014 was 26 weeks long – that’s half of a year. For 2015, open enrollment was decreased to 16 weeks. For both 2016 and 2017, the health insurance Open Enrollment Period lasted 13 weeks; this upcoming 2018 enrollment period was initially set to last for 13 weeks as well.

This past April, the Department of Health and Human Services shocked insurance producers by reducing the 2018 Open Enrollment Period to six weeks. By announcing the change in the middle of the year, the government gave consumers minimal warning to prepare for a busier enrollment period. Local community groups that work to sign their neighbors up for healthcare were equally off-guard.

Six weeks is a lot shorter than you’d imagine. For the last enrollment period, Americans were already starting to lose healthcare because they missed open enrollment; 2017 was the first time in which individual health plan membership dropped in Obamacare’s history.

What’s the Purpose of Open Enrollment for Health Insurance Anyway?

Were you healthy when you first bought health insurance? You pay your health insurer a little bit every month, and they give back a lot when you need care. If everyone waited until they were sick to buy insurance, then there would be no money for insurers to give back.

To solve this enrollment problem, the Affordable Care Act created this national Open Enrollment Period. During this annual health insurance open enrollment, everyone is supposed to buy or re-enroll in health insurance all at once. Outside of this Open Enrollment Period, buying healthcare becomes difficult.

Why Are Longer Health Insurance Open Enrollment Periods Better?

Open enrollment is your best chance to:

A great deal of flexibility disappears with a six-week open enrollment period. Smaller advertising budgets mean that there won’t be a whole lot of warning for consumers before open enrollment begins. The federal government has even decided to end nonprofit programs that let people know about open enrollment and help them sign up for insurance.

And This Year Isn’t Just Shorter

Several other changes were made over the past few months that will magnify the impact of a shorter health insurance Open Enrollment Period.

Stricter Special Enrollment Requirements: Previously, the federal government would take your word for it if you tried to join a plan outside of open enrollment due to a special circumstance. As of this year, there are strict verification standards that involve sending the documents in a short period of time.

Removal of Non-Payment Loophole: Some consumers had also learned to stop paying their premiums in the months leading up to open enrollment. They bet that it would take a while for their coverage to be canceled, or even decided to lose coverage since they no longer needed it. This five-finger discount loophole was closed for 2018. Now, you’ll only be able to switch to new coverage if your old coverage is paid in full. Consumers – especially those who are behind on payments by accident – may not be able to learn about the issue, reconcile their bills, and sign up in time.

Price Increases on Health Plans: What’s more, recent uncertainty in health policy has caused insurers to raise their prices. According to one estimate, the cost of the most common health plans will rise by about 18 percent for 2018. Analysts believe that two-thirds of the price increase is due to political uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act’s future. Although price increases will vary widely in different states, consumers will be in a difficult spot when deciding whether or not to enroll.

Why Would Anyone Shorten the Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period?

Insurers tend to be uncomfortable with a long health insurance open enrollment (even though they want customers). During open enrollment, people will wait to get sick before applying for coverage that a company is required to provide. Open enrollment must be short enough that insurers will be able to offer coverage without going broke, while still being a fair length for consumers who want to sign up.

At this point, the 2018 health insurance open enrollment is about as short as it can be. If you want lifespans to grow, you might want open enrollment to stop shrinking.

Taking the Next Steps

Looking for a health insurance plan? Use HealthCare.com’s selector tool to help you navigate and choose the right healthcare coverage. Approximately 20 million people will shop for health insurance during this Open Enrollment Period. If you’re shopping for healthcare coverage on your own, check out HealthCare.com to see what Marketplace and off-Marketplace plans are available to you.

For More Reading:

To Get Health Insurance Quotes:

Search our database of individual health insurance plans at HealthCare.com.

Get a Free Health Insurance Quote

  • Get an instant quote for health insurance plans
  • Compare prices from over 300 carriers
  • Find a plan that fits your budget
Please enter a valid US Zip Code

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on September 8 to reflect enrollment date changes in New York and Massachusetts, on September 14 to reflect a change for Connecticut, and on December 13 to reflect a new date for Maryland.

Hal Levy

About Hal Levy

Hal is a licensed health insurance agent and a staff writer at HealthCare.com. Hal helps consumers make smart medical decisions by keeping his eye on insurance companies. Prior to joining HealthCare.com, Hal worked at other rapidly growing startups and nonprofit groups. He drinks a ton of coffee and eats vegetables almost every day.

Comments