What Is the Covered California Open Enrollment Period?

Individual and Family

What Is the Covered California Open Enrollment Period?

Published on March 14, 2018


There are many things in life that must be completed by certain deadlines. Registering a vehicle, filing taxes, and of course choosing a health care plan. Unlike waiting at the DMV or filing taxes, enrolling in health care doesn’t have to be a challenging or time consuming process. However, when the time is right to apply on Covered California, it is important that you examine available health plans during the open enrollment period.

What is open enrollment? 

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) many eligible individuals are able to choose the health insurance plans that will best meet their needs. In order to receive health insurance for the upcoming year, it is important that you compare, contrast, and select a plan during the Covered California and Marketplace open enrollment periods. If you live in California and don’t sign up for health insurance during the Covered California open enrollment period, then you will not be eligible for health insurance until the next open enrollment period or unless you experience a qualifying life event.

Does the Covered California open enrollment still apply if you shop somewhere else?

If you are a California resident, the extended open enrollment period for California typically still applies when you shop on eHealth.com. This means you can still benefit from the easy-to-use application process provided by eHealth, while also having a longer open enrollment period as a Californian.
Also keep in mind that you can still generally apply for government premiums through Covered California, or by working with eHealth. To get government subsidies for insurance premiums, you must go through a subsidy application process either on a government-run website or through a partner authorized by the government, such as eHealth.  eHealth partners with the federal-run marketplace to make government subsidies available to qualifying customers on eHealth’s website in most states.

How is the Covered California open enrollment period different than the federal exchange?

Covered California, in general, is different from the federal exchange, because it is a state-based health insurance marketplace. It is meant specifically for people who need health insurance in California. The federal exchange runs the government-run health insurance marketplace in most other states.
The enrollment period for the federal exchange, also known as the Marketplace, may have a different open enrollment period than certain state-run exchanges like California.  For example, California’s open enrollment period lasted until January 31, 2018 for 2018 coverage, while the federal exchange’s open enrollment period ended earlier on December 15, 2017 for 2018 coverage. During open enrollment, you will be able to choose a health care plan for the upcoming year.  The federal exchange is for the majority of states that, unlike California, have chosen to not run their own state exchanges.
It is important to note that the Covered California open enrollment is scheduled to use a different deadline for the 2019 coverage year as well. Applications for Covered California health insurance plans are scheduled to be accepted from November 1 to January 31st. After this time period ends, Covered California’s open enrollment for the year will close until the fall. Covered California’s marketplace and open enrollment only applies to people who are California residents and wish to have health insurance coverage in California.
Whether it is through a federal exchange, state exchange, or somewhere like eHealth, unless you have a qualifying life event, you will only be able to sign up for health insurance during periods of open enrollment.

What is a special enrollment period and how does it apply to Covered California?

The special enrollment period is specifically designed to help people enroll in health insurance plans outside of the open enrollment period. In order to qualify for special enrollment and subsequently apply for Covered California health insurance plans, individuals must experience certain types of life events, including:

  • Losing employer provided health insurance
  • Moving to a new state or coverage area—health insurance plans that are acquired from the Marketplace or Covered California are not always transferable from one state to another
  • Becoming a widow or widower
  • Getting a divorce or becoming married
  • Aging off of a parent’s health insurance plan
  • Having a baby

It is important to note that you won’t have a qualifying life event, either through eHealth or Covered California, if you lost your health insurance because you failed to pay your monthly premiums or willingly decided to cancel your plan.  In those cases, you must wait until open enrollment or until you have another event that is a qualifying life event.
Whether you need to purchase an individual health insurance plan or want to explore the family plans offered on Covered California, one thing is certain — you should mark your calendars with the Covered California open enrollment dates. Failing to select a health insurance plan during the open enrollment period could lead to a lapse in your health care coverage. Fortunately, with Covered California and private health insurance marketplaces you can review and purchase a health insurance plan that is right for you and your family’s needs.
This web site is owned and maintained by eHealthInsurance Services, Inc., which is solely responsible for its content. This site is not maintained by or affiliated with Covered California, and Covered California bears no responsibility for its content. The e-mail addresses and telephone numbers that appear throughout this site belong to eHealthInsurance Services, Inc., and cannot be used to contact Covered California. “Covered California,” “California Health Benefit Exchange”, and the Covered California Logo are registered trademarks or service marks of Covered California in the United States.

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