CMS Shortens OEP for The 2018 Insurance Plan Year

In 2014, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into full effect, individuals had six months to enroll. Then, the following year, people only had three months; however, the government ended up extending the open enrollment deadline. That year, they also assisted people during the tax season who didn’t know or understand why they were being penalized. So, in 2015, people had about four and a half months to enroll. For the last two years, people only had three months to apply for qualified health coverage during the open enrollment. The open enrollment period started on November 1 and lasted until the end of January. Now, the upcoming enrollment period will be cut in half. 

For the 2018 plan year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is shortening the open enrollment period (OEP). It will start on November 1, 2017, and end on December 15, 2017. All plans purchased at this time will be effective January 1; that is the only effective date offered from now on. This timeframe coincides with the Annual Election Period (AEP), which is the Medicare enrollment period. AEP lasts from October 15th until December 7th. So, not only does this CMS ruling reduce the amount of time to enroll in health coverage, but it also occurs during another busy enrollment period.

What Does a Shorter Open Enrollment Period Mean for Agents and Consumers For Their Insurance Plan?

Insurance agents working in both the individual market and the senior Medicare market will be pressed for time to get their clients enrolled. For insurance plan holders, this means getting enrolled as soon as possible. If individuals procrastinate, their agent might be unavailable to assist them because of an overwhelming amount of client applications. Some agents have decided to pull out of the individual health market altogether. So, the agent that helped you last year may not be available this time around. Therefore, it’s vital to contact your agent before the enrollment period. You need to ensure they’ll be available; if not, they may be able to refer you to another agent or agency that can help. 

Bottom line: With so many changes occurring this year – the open enrollment only comprising one of many changes – it’s critical to have an agent you know and trust who can guide you through your healthcare decisions. They’ll keep you informed of current and future changes to the individual market. In addition to contacting an agent, mark your calendar with the start of open enrollment – November 1. As soon as it opens, you want to apply right away. With only six weeks to enroll, you can’t afford to procrastinate.


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This article was revised on 5/8/24.

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