When can I apply for a Marketplace Plan?

Open Enrollment Period

If you buy you own health insurance — versus getting health insurance through your employer — you can review your options and renew or purchase your plan for the upcoming year during the annual Open Enrollment Period (OEP). The Open Enrollment Period takes place each year from November 1 to December 15 in most states. If you’re looking to buy insurance for the first time or enroll in a new plan, this six-week period is your chance to sign up for coverage for the upcoming calendar year. In most cases, if you miss this window you’ll have to wait until the following year to pick, pay for, and get going on a health insurance plan.

Some states that run their own health insurance marketplaces extend the open enrollment period. In 2020, the following states have opted to do this:

  • Idaho – December 16th
  • Minnesota – December 23rd
  • Rhode Island – December 31st
  • Colorado – January 15th
  • Massachusetts – January 23rd
  • District of Columbia – January 31st
  • California – January 31st
  • New York – January 31st

Even if your state has extended its Open Enrollment Period, you’ll still usually need to enroll by December 15th to get coverage that starts on January 1st.

Special Enrollment Period

There is one exception to the Open Enrollment Period. That’s when you experience a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). Qualifying Life Events fall into three general categories:

  • A change in where you live (if a move would impact the kind of health insurance coverage you have)
  • A change in your family unit (such as getting married or having or adopting a child)
  • Losing the health insurance coverage you previously had (if your spouse loses their job, if you get a divorce from a spouse through whom you were insured, the death of a spouse or parent through whom you were insured, or if you turn 26 and age off your parents’ insurance coverage).

All of these kinds of life changes qualify you to enter into a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). An SEP lets you shop on the Health Insurance Marketplace just like you would during the annual Open Enrollment Period. Your timeframe to shop and enroll in coverage is triggered by your Qualifying Life Event and not the general time constraints of Open Enrollment — and typically lasts 60 days.


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