Get expert advice delivered straight to your inbox.

Skip to Main Content

What to Look for During the Open Enrollment Period

Open enrollment—it’s one of the most important seasons of the year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with pumpkins or presents—mostly just confusion. But don’t worry. We’re going to go over everything you need to look for during open enrollment period so you can look forward to this season of opportunity almost as much as Christmas!

 

Key Takeaways

  • Open enrollment period is the window when you can sign up for health insurance and other types of insurance your company may offer. It’s also the window when you can sign up for health insurance through the federal marketplace.
  • Generally, it’s cheaper to go with your company’s health insurance than the open market, but make sure to compare just in case.
  • Avoid vision and dental insurance and anything marketed as “investment insurance,” like whole life or universal life.

What Is Open Enrollment?

Let’s start with the most obvious question about open enrollment and work our way from there: What is open enrollment? Open enrollment refers to the window of time when you can take advantage of your employee benefits like health insurance—and it only happens once a year. As you can see, it’s a time when you have to make some important choices that can affect your finances for the rest of your life. No pressure! (Grinning sweat drop emoji.)

Open enrollment also refers to the period of time when you can buy insurance on the open marketplace (run by the federal government or your state government).

Once the enrollment window closes, you’re locked into your current coverage until the next year. So make sure you know the open enrollment dates of your company or the program you want to join!

Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment

That said, there are a few exceptions to the time limits. You can sign up for insurance outside of the open enrollment period if you have a major life change, like marriage, divorce or becoming a parent. You’re also eligible for special enrollment if you’re a new hire. These are dubbed special enrollment periods. Pretty straightforward.

Whether you’re in an open enrollment period or special enrollment period, once it starts, you’ll want to look for health, term life, disability, and identity theft insurance.

 

When Can You Get Health Insurance?

The big thing most people are concerned about is health insurance, so we’ll start there. If you work at a company that offers health insurance, you’ll be able to sign up during open enrollment when you’re hired (special enrollment), or after a qualifying life event (marriage, divorce, losing insurance or having a kid—also special enrollment).

 

Types of Insurance That Use Open Enrollment

Most types of health insurance you get will be available during an open enrollment period. These include:

  • Employer-sponsored health insurance
  • Marketplace health insurance
  • Medicare

For Medicare, there are a few different enrollment periods. The biggest one is the annual enrollment period (AEP) every year from October 15 to December 7.

 

When Is the Open Enrollment Period?

Open enrollment dates are different depending on the state you live in and who you’re getting your insurance through (state or employer), but generally they start in the fall and end in December or January.

If you plan to go with your employer’s health insurance, make sure you pay attention to your company’s open enrollment dates—they’ll be unique to your company. Marketplace health insurance, on the other hand, becomes available during specific periods set by the state or federal government.

Keep in mind: If you’re getting your insurance through the state, your open enrollment dates will affect your coverage start date. So if your open enrollment starts later, your coverage will too.

There are 18 states with state-run open enrollment while the rest use federal-run open enrollment. Federal open enrollment begins November 1, 2023, and ends January 15, 2024.1

For the 18 states that run their own marketplace for insurance, open enrollment dates are all over the place. Check out this chart to figure it out:

State-Run Open Enrollment Dates

California

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 31, 2024

Minnesota

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Colorado

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Nevada

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Connecticut

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

New Jersey

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 31, 2024

District of Columbia

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 31, 2024

New Mexico

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Idaho

Oct. 15, 2023 – December 15, 2023

New York

Nov. 16, 2023 – Jan. 31, 2024

Kentucky

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Pennsylvania

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Maine

Nov. 1, 2023 – January 15, 2024

Rhode Island

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 31, 2024

Maryland

Nov. 1, 2023 – Dec. 15, 2023

Vermont

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Massachusetts

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 23, 2024

Washington

Nov. 1, 2023 – Jan. 15, 2024

Data from obamacarefacts.com2

 

What Insurance Plans and Benefits Are Available?

If you’re going through your employer, your health insurance plan options will depend on what your employer wants to offer, but you’ll likely be able to choose from at least a few of the types listed below. If you’re heading to the open market, you’ll choose from these types of plans:

  • Health maintenance organization (HMO): HMO plans limit you to doctors within a certain network. They’re usually the strictest plans but can have lower premiums.
  • Preferred provider organization (PPO) PPO plans are similar to HMOs but give you a little more flexibility. You’ll pay less for medical care if you use a provider within the plan’s network. You are allowed to access out-of-network providers, but they’re more expensive. 
  • Exclusive provider organization (EPO): EPO plans limit you to in-network providers except for emergencies.
  • Point of service (POS): POS plans offer benefits like lower medical bills if you use doctors, hospitals and health care providers in the plan’s network. Keep in mind, you’ll need a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist.
  • High-deductible health plan (HDHP): HDHP plans are exactly what they sound like. You pay a higher-than-normal deductible, but you get much lower premiums. An HDHP also makes you eligible to save money in a pretax Health Savings Account (HSAs).
  • Short-term plan: Short-term plans are temporary health insurance policies that bridge the gap when you’re between jobs. They usually last from three months to just under a year.
  • Catastrophic plans: Catastrophic plans have lower premiums and high deductibles, so you’d foot the bill for most of your medical expenses. But you’d be protected if you had unexpected, huge medical bills from being injured in a car accident, for example.  

Get the health insurance you need from Health Trust Financial today!

When RamseyTrusted partner Health Trust Financial is in your corner, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you have the right health insurance that won’t break the bank.

Connect With Health Trust Financial

How to Choose the Right Health Insurance Plan

Choosing the right plan will come down to what you need.

For folks who are young and healthy with few medical expenses, we recommend a high-deductible health plan with an HSA if you can get it. You’ll save money on premiums and enjoy a triple tax shelter through the HSA.

Here’s how an HSA gives you three tax advantages:

  • You’re not taxed when you put money into your HSA. 
  • The money in your HSA grows tax-free. 
  • You’re not taxed when you take money out to pay for medical expenses. 

While this looks awesome, if you have health problems or have kids and use your health insurance a lot, an HDHP might not be your best bet. In this case, you’ll need to run some “guesstimate” numbers and figure out which plan will save you the most in the long run.

Some questions to ask yourself if you’re thinking about either renewing your health plan from last year or switching:

  • How much did it cost last year? (Add up premiums, deductible and out-of-pocket costs)
  • Did this feel high? If so, consider running the numbers on a different plan.
  • Have your health care needs changed?
  • Is your doctor or clinic in network?
  • If you take medication, is it covered?

If your current options for health insurance aren’t working for you, another option is a health cost sharing ministry. While this is not formal insurance, organizations like Christian Healthcare Ministries share the cost of medical expenses among members and can be a good option for people looking for something outside the system.

 

How Much Does Insurance Cost During Open Enrollment?

The average individual in America pays $456 per month for marketplace health insurance in 2023.3 A family plan for a 40-year-old married couple with two kids costs on average $1,483 per month.4 For folks who get their insurance through work, an average individual pays $111 per month and an average family pays $509 monthly.5

But these are averages. Keep in mind, how much health insurance will run you depends on a lot of factors, like your age, health, how many people are on your plan—and if you’re getting insurance through your work—who your employer is.

Don’t let the price of health insurance put you off from getting it! Health insurance is a must for protecting you financially. One big health incident—an accident, sickness, whatever!—could wipe out your savings or worse. Sure, it’s a pain to pay premiums every month for something you never want to use. But those premiums pay the insurance company to cover the risks you can’t afford to cover on your own.

 

Other Benefits to Consider During Open Enrollment

If you thought you were done with open enrollment, hold up now. There are a few more benefits you can get during open enrollment—and some you probably want to avoid.

Health Savings Accounts

A Health Savings Account, or HSA, lets you save money for medical expenses. Like we mentioned earlier, it has some awesome tax benefits.

You’ll have to pair your HSA with a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) that has lower premiums than traditional health insurance plans. So the HDHP/HSA combo is a great way to save money on health insurance.

Here are two things to keep in mind as you consider an HSA:

Your and your family’s health: If you have a lot of health issues or regular health care expenses, an HDHP (which, remember, is the type of plan you must have to get an HSA) might not be the best fit.

How much you’re allowed to save: The government sets a limit on how much you can save in an HSA.

Contribution limits for 2023:

  • Contribution limit for an individual: $3,850
  • Contribution limit for a family: $7,7506

Contribution limits for 2024:

  • Contribution limit for an individual: $4,150
  • Contribution limit for a family: $8,3007

While open enrollment is a great time to set up an HSA if you qualify, you can actually set one up any time of the year if you already have an HDHP. But don’t put it off!

 

Other Insurance

Besides health insurance, you’ll probably run into a few other kinds of insurance, like vision, dental and disability insurance. Some of these are good while others aren’t. You want to make sure you get the right kinds of insurance to protect your money.

 

Don’t Sign Up for These Benefits at Open Enrollment

Don’t sign up for everything offered during open enrollment. You might hear about cancer insurance, accidental death insurance or “investment insurance” plans, like whole life or universal life.

Don’t be fooled by the marketing language around these policies. They’re designed to make money for the seller, and they don’t actually give you valuable coverage. So skip them.

Paying dental and vision insurance premiums are also usually a waste. If you have an HSA, you can pay for checkups, dental work, contacts and glasses with the money in your HSA. If not, just budget for those expenses.

 

Do Sign Up for These Benefits at Open Enrollment

Do check to see if your employer offers any of the following insurance benefits. If they do, take advantage of each one. And if they don’t, look for policies on your own.

Besides health insurance, these are the essential types of insurance:

Identity Theft Insurance

Identity theft is on the rise. It’s not a matter of if this happens to you or your family—it’s a matter of when.

Identity theft protection repays you for stolen funds and recovery expenses—and instead of you chasing down those funds, an insurance agent does it for you. It’ll save you a ton of time and energy. And the best part is, it’s one of the most affordable types of insurance you’ll ever have! 

Term Life Insurance

Term life insurance is essential because it provide for your family if you pass away unexpectedly.

Here's A Tip

Tip: You need term life insurance coverage equal to 10–12 times your yearly income to be sure your spouse and children are well taken care of.

While you can get some term life through your job, employer policies usually don’t provide enough coverage. That means the bulk of your life insurance won’t be through your employer. You need to buy coverage on your own as well in case you change jobs.

 

Long-Term Disability Insurance

Most of us like to think we’re invincible, but accidents happen every day that change people’s lives forever. The risk of disability is a reality you can’t afford to ignore, which is why disability insurance is so important.

If an illness or injury ever prevents you from working for a long period of time, your disability insurance kicks in and replaces a portion of your income until you can go back to work. That’s a way better deal than finding yourself with no money coming in and no way to make more. Disability insurance will make sure the bills get paid and your family is taken care of.

So, if your employer offers long-term disability, you should take it. If they offer short-term disability for free, also take that, but know you’ll need to supplement it with your own long-term policy as well.

 

Find the Best Health Insurance Plan for You

If you’re heading to the open marketplace for health insurance, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. We wouldn’t blame you—there’s a lot to figure out. The good news is, we’ve got some next steps for you.

 

Next Steps

  • Read more about why health insurance is an essential part of a smart financial plan.
  • Go deeper to learn more about how to get health insurance.
  • When you're ready to buy, instead of doing all the legwork yourself—shopping around, comparing quotes, researching this option, contrasting that option—hand that work over to our friends at Health Trust Financial. As our trusted health insurance provider, they know their stuff. In fact, they've been serving Ramsey fans for over 20 years. When you work with Health Trust Financial, they can set you up with the best health insurance quotes and policies for your situation and explain all of the insurance jargon to you. Plus they'll never try to sell you something you don't need. Connect with them now!
Connect With Health Trust Financial

Frequently Asked Questions

Open enrollment for federal marketplace health insurance for 2023 already passed. The dates were November 1, 2022, through January 15, 2023.

For open enrollment periods in the workplace, dates are set by individual companies and can vary, but they often take place in November.

If you’re looking to get health insurance on the federal exchange, open enrollment for 2024 starts November 1, 2023. You’ll have until December 15, 2023, to enroll for coverage that starts January 1, 2024. January 15, 2024, is the last day to enroll for coverage in 2024. Eighteen states run their own marketplaces and have their own open enrollment dates.

You can enroll for Medicare from October 15 to December 7, 2023.

For 2024 coverage, open enrollment ends January 15, 2024. This is for marketplace coverage run by the federal government. States that run their own marketplace set their own dates for the end of open enrollment.

As long as your health plan meets the IRS requirements to qualify as a high-deductible health plan, you can open an HSA anytime—not just during open enrollment.

To have coverage January 1, 2024, with a marketplace health insurance plan, make sure you sign up before December 15, 2023. For people who sign up between November 1 and December 15, coverage will start the first of the year. If you sign up after, your coverage will start later.

If you’re getting coverage through your workplace, your coverage start date will depend on what provider your company goes through and when they set their open enrollment.

Did you find this article helpful? Share it!

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

Related Articles

Best ways to save on health care
Insurance

How to Save on Health Care

Saving on healthcare can seem daunting, but we’ve got some ideas. The first place to start is finding ways to save on health insurance. We’ll walk you through this and more.

Ramsey Ramsey
HDHP vs PPO
Insurance

HDHP vs. PPO: Which Is Right for You?

Health care is full of choices, and this is one area you really want to choose well. To decide between a high deductible health plan or a preferred provider organization, what you really need is an explainer on HDHP vs. PPO.

Ramsey Ramsey
health insurance for unemployed
Insurance

How to Get Health Insurance Without a Job

Trying to figure out how to get health insurance without a job can be a challenge, but we’ve got good news! You can still get health insurance while unemployed. We’ll walk you through your options.

Ramsey Ramsey