Applying for Health Insurance Coverage for Self Employed: The Enrollment Process

Once you've selected the health insurance plan you’d like, you're ready to enroll. Enrolling in coverage is pretty easy, but here are some things you should know:

Open enrollment season for health insurance

Under the Affordable Care Act, there's an annual open enrollment period during which almost anyone can apply for coverage through an individual or family health insurance plan. The nationwide open enrollment period typically runs from November 1 through January 31. Coverage under a new plan selected during open enrollment generally begins no sooner than the first of the year. Outside of the open enrollment period, you may only be able to purchase Obamacare-compliant health insurance coverage when you experience a qualifying life event.

Special enrollment periods

Outside of open enrollment, you may trigger a personal special enrollment period of sixty days (typically) if you experience what the law considers a qualifying life event. These may include things like marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, the loss of employer-based health insurance, a move to a new coverage area where your old plan no longer works, or a major change to your income.

Health insurance subsidies

Qualifying persons with a taxable household income of no more than 400% of the federal poverty level may qualify for government subsidies to make their monthly premiums more affordable. These subsidies, sometimes called advanced premium tax credits, are not available for small business health insurance, only individual and family coverage.

Where to enroll for health insurance

You can enroll in a new individual and family health insurance plan through various places including private online marketplaces like, government-run exchanges, or directly through the health insurance company. Working with a private online marketplace may provide you with a broader view of your options and make it easy to get personal advice and help from licensed agents.

What to expect

You may receive confirmation of your approval for coverage right away, or within a few days. In some cases, it may take longer. Remember that your coverage typically will not begin right after approval. If you enroll by the 15th day of the month, your coverage will generally begin on the first day of the next month. If you enroll after the 15th, your coverage typically won’t begin until the first day of the month after next.

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