Open Enrollment — and Medicare’s Annual Election Period — can be overwhelming. With so many options to choose from in a short amount of time, it can be pretty confusing and hard to keep up with. But help is on the way! We’ve got some do’s and don’ts to share, so you can take on this annual task with confidence.
First things first: take a deep breath. Then grab a pen and some paper. With a little preparation, you’ll be on your way to signing up in no time, without any added stress. But before we dive into a to-do list, let’s talk about what we’re preparing for — and how much time we have to do it.
What is Open Enrollment?
Open Enrollment is the annual period of time when people can enroll in or change their health insurance for the next calendar year. If you miss Open Enrollment or would like to change your plan outside of this time frame, you have to wait for a qualifying event, like getting married, having a baby, or losing health coverage. For more information on qualifying events, head here.
Open Enrollment typically runs from November 1 to December 15 every year, but this also depends on your state. (For example: New York’s Open Enrollment period extends until January 31.)
What is the Medicare Annual Election Period?
There are actually two opportunities for those that qualify for Medicare to enroll in or change their coverage.
The first is Medicare’s Annual Election Period, and your selections during this time will go into effect on January 1. The second is Medicare Advantage’s Open Enrollment Period.
If you qualify for Medicare and are looking into your options for the next year, here’s what you can do:
Annual Election Period
October 15 – December 7
January 1 – March 31
Here are the do’s and don’ts of picking a healthcare plan.
Now that you know when and what you need to sign up for, let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts of how to prepare.
Do: Gather your personal information before you apply.
When you enroll in or renew your coverage, you’ll be asked to provide information on any dependents, your household income, and key details like your Social Security number and address. If you’re currently enrolled in coverage, you should have your policy handy, too. (This makes it easier to compare it against new plans in case you’d like to switch.)
Don’t: Just assume your current health plan is the best option.
Plans change annually — and if you’re not careful, you can re-enroll in a plan with higher rates, different coverage options, and a new network of doctors. If you’re happy with your current plan, that’s great! But before you agree to another year of coverage, make sure you read the fine print — just in case.
Do: Make a list of must-haves.
Do you have a specialist you really like? Would you prefer a plan with easily accessible telemedicine options? By defining a list of must-haves for insurance, it will be that much easier to sift through plans and create your “short list” of ones to choose from. Here are some considerations to get you started:
A big network of doctors
Low monthly costs vs. a low deductible
Prescription drug coverage options
An HSA-eligible plan
Out-of-network coverage options
Your maximum out-of-pocket cost
Your enrollment deadline and signup method (over the phone or online) depend on your primary home state. You’ll want to make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to find a plan and think it over — because after the deadline, you’ll have to wait a whole year (or for a qualifying event) to enroll.
When is your state's deadline?
|State||Open Enrollment Dates|
|CALIFORNIA||October 15th - January 31st|
|ALABAMA||November 1st - December 15th|
|ALASKA||November 1st - December 15th|
|ARIZONA||November 1st - December 15th|
|ARKANSAS||November 1st - December 15th|
|COLORADO||November 1st - December 15th|
|DELAWARE||November 1st - December 15th|
|DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA||November 1st - December 15th|
|FLORIDA||November 1st - December 15th|
|GEORGIA||November 1st - December 15th|
|HAWAII||November 1st - December 15th|
|IDAHO||November 1st - December 15th|
|ILLINOIS||November 1st - December 15th|
|INDIANA||November 1st - December 15th|
|IOWA||November 1st - December 15th|
|KANSAS||November 1st - December 15th|
|KENTUCKY||November 1st - December 15th|
|LOUISIANA||November 1st - December 15th|
|MAINE||November 1st - December 15th|
|MARYLAND||November 1st - December 15th|
|MICHIGAN||November 1st - December 15th|
|MISSISSIPPI||November 1st - December 15th|
|MISSOURI||November 1st - December 15th|
|MONTANA||November 1st - December 15th|
|NEBRASKA||November 1st - December 15th|
|NEVADA||November 1st - December 15th|
|NEW HAMPSHIRE||November 1st - December 15th|
|NEW JERSEY||November 1st - December 15th|
|NEW MEXICO||November 1st - December 15th|
|NORTH CAROLINA||November 1st - December 15th|
|NORTH DAKOTA||November 1st - December 15th|
|OHIO||November 1st - December 15th|
|OKLAHOMA||November 1st - December 15th|
|OREGON||November 1st - December 15th|
|PENNSYLVANIA||November 1st - December 15th|
|SOUTH CAROLINA||November 1st - December 15th|
|SOUTH DAKOTA||November 1st - December 15th|
|TENNESSEE||November 1st - December 15th|
|TEXAS||November 1st - December 15th|
|UTAH||November 1st - December 15th|
|VIRGINIA||November 1st - December 15th|
|VERMONT||November 1st - December 15th|
|WASHINGTON||November 1st - December 15th|
|WEST VIRGINIA||November 1st - December 15th|
|WISCONSIN||November 1st - December 15th|
|WYOMING||November 1st - December 15th|
|MINNESOTA||November 1st - December 23rd|
|RHODE ISLAND||November 1st - December 31st|
|CONNECTICUT||November 1st - January 15th|
|MASSACHUSETTS||November 1st - January 15th|
|NEW YORK||November 1st - January 15th|
Do: Define your budget.
Like your coverage must-haves, creating a budget is just as important. Would you prefer a plan that has a higher monthly cost — but a low deductible? And how high can that monthly cost comfortably be? Determining this now can save you a lot of headache later, because an unexpected health bill can have a huge financial impact.
Don’t: Be afraid to ask for help.
Signing up for a healthcare (or Medicare!) plan is one of the most important things you can do to make you and your family feel safer, have more access, and keep costs down. That’s why Kasasa Care has partnered with KindHealth to create a digital platform to find plans, compare prices, and get help — with ease. You don’t have to do this alone, and Kind Advisors are standing by to answer your questions, explore your Medicare options (if you qualify), and help you navigate this important time like a pro. Plus, if you have a question about a medical bill or don’t fully understand your benefits, they’re always just a phone call away — long after you’ve enrolled in coverage.
As Open Enrollment approaches, it’s easy to feel anxious. Making your healthcare or Medicare choice for the next calendar year is a huge decision, but we hope these tips made you feel more at ease — and more equipped to get enrolled. Be well!