The open enrollment period for 2015 for purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins November 1st. Once it arrives, millions of consumers across America will begin signing up for insurance coverage for the new year, leading to a flurry of activity across the health insurance sector. What does open enrollment mean for insurance agents? In this post, we’ll examine how the open enrollment period affects insurance agents selling health insurance, and how they can better prepare for its arrival.
What Is Open Enrollment?
One of the many changes to U.S. health insurance law made by the Affordable Care Act was the creation of a restricted timeframe during which most people could sign up for health insurance coverage for the coming year. Barring certain exceptions due to “qualifying life events,” such as marriage and childbirth, Americans can now only purchase life insurance plans during certain months every year. This period is known as the open enrollment period; the open enrollment period for 2015 lasts from Nov. 1st through Jan. 31st, 2016.
How Does Open Enrollment Affect Insurance Agents?
If you sell health insurance for a living, the changes made to health insurance enrollment rules are definitely something you’ve been paying attention to. In short, the creation of the open enrollment period restricts the amount of time you are allowed to sign people up for new healthcare coverage to 2-3 months per year, with the exception of rare special enrollments.
The creation of the open enrollment period also means that that period of time every year is a busy one for any insurance agent who sells health insurance. Above even the normal demand for health insurance resulting in a large number of people looking to sign up during a limited period, the Affordable Care Act’s additional requirement that everyone over a certain income level buy health insurance or pay a penalty come tax time has led to millions of people who did not have health coverage before searching out health insurance ahead of the deadline.
The open enrollment period isn’t just a time for raking in the sales, however. Because of the numerous changes made by the ACA and the complicated nature of insurance regulation, the yearly insurance enrollment period also leads to many consumers looking for answers and clarifications about how their health coverage works, whether they are required to buy insurance, and other pertinent health coverage-related questions. More often than not, they turn to insurance agents to answer those questions.
2016 Open Enrollment Timeline
The timeline of important dates regarding the 2015 open enrollment period are as follows:
• Nov. 1st – Open enrollment begins; first day consumers can enroll in a new insurance plan through the ACA’s insurance marketplaces.
• Dec. 15th – Last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage beginning on Jan 1st, 2016.
• Jan. 1st, 2016 – Coverage begins for all consumers who enrolled before Dec. 15th.
• Jan 15th – Last day to enroll or change plans for coverage beginning on Feb. 1st, 2016.
• Jan 31st – End of open enrollment.
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