Signing Up for Health Insurance? You Have Less Time This Year

by Nancy Metcalf Health Writer

If you need to buy health insurance this fall, you should know that the Affordable Care Act is still very much in effect. That’s because Congress failed to pass any legislation over the summer to repeal or amend it.

That means you still have to carry health insurance or face a tax penalty. And if you buy insurance on your own, it means that the upcoming 2018 open enrollment period is the time to change or acquire it.

While open enrollment will mostly work the same as it has in previous years, the Trump administration has made an important change that you need to know about.

What’s new for health insurance now

This year open enrollment runs only six weeks, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. In previous years it extended to the end of January. And remember, the open enrollment restriction applies even if you buy coverage off your state exchange.

“The shorter period is huge,” says Louise Norris, a Colorado insurance broker and national insurance expert blogger. “The vast majority of people in past years were already signing up by Dec. 15, and sick people in particular get right on it in November. The contingent signing up late tended to be younger and healthier.”

That’s important, because without younger, healthier enrollees to offset more expensive ones, insurers can’t keep premiums down. So even if you’re prompt about enrolling yourself, remember to let any “young and invincible” friends and relatives in your life know about the new deadline.

The only exceptions to the new calendar are in some of the 12 states that run their own exchanges, rather than letting, the federal exchange, handle the job. Several of them, including California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington, have announced longer enrollment periods.

Nancy Metcalf
Meet Our Writer
Nancy Metcalf

Nancy Metcalf is an award-winning independent journalist specializing in health topics. A senior writer and editor for Consumer Reports for more than 25 years, she is a nationally recognized expert on health insurance and health reform.