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I Missed Open Enrollment: Can I Get Health Insurance Now?

In most states, the deadline for open enrollment ended December 15, 2019. If you missed this date, you’re probably wondering how to get health insurance after open enrollment is over. The good news: there still might be a way for you to get the coverage you need.

If you missed the window to make health care elections for 2020, you may still qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP). Some people in some situations may be able to purchase health insurance outside of the standard enrollment period. We’re here to help you discover if you qualify — and help you if you don’t.

family looking at a laptop during dinner

What Happens If I Miss Open Enrollment?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) no longer requires everyone to have health coverage. You will not have to pay a tax penalty if you missed open enrollment and don’t have coverage for 2020. However, going without health insurance could leave you at risk for high unexpected medical bills. Your options could include a special enrollment period, Medicaid and/or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), short-term health insurance, and supplemental insurance.

How Do I Qualify for a Special Enrollment Period?

In most of the United States, in order to buy private health insurance after open enrollment, you must qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP), which usually lasts 60 days from the date of a qualifying life event.

Qualifying Life Events

Loss of Health Coverage

  • Loss of existing health care coverage, including employer provided, individually funded, and student health plans
  • Loss of eligibility for Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP
  • Turning 26 and losing coverage through a parent or guardian’s plan

Changes In Household

  • Getting married or divorced
  • Having a baby or adopting a child
  • A death in the family

Changes in Residence

  • Moving to a different ZIP code
  • A student moving to or from the place they attend school
  • A seasonal worker moving to or from the place they both live and work

Additional qualifying changes:

  • A change that makes you no longer eligible for Medicaid or CHIP
  • Gaining membership in a federally recognized tribe or status as an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Corporation shareholder
  • Becoming a U.S. citizen
  • Leaving incarceration
  • Starting or ending service as an AmeriCorps State and National, VISTA, or NCCC member

Events that do not qualify for a SEP:

  • A promotion or demotion
  • Unpaid leave outside of Family Medical Leave Act parameters
  • Changes in childcare expenses
  • Moving in with your partner
  • Loss of coverage due to voluntarily canceling your health insurance plan
  • Having your plan canceled because you did not pay your premium

If you missed the open enrollment deadline and do not qualify for a special enrollment period, you might consider a supplemental insurance policy, such as hospital or critical illness insurance.

Whether or not you qualify for a SEP, you can also enroll in Medicaid and CHIP at any time during the year if you qualify.

Special Enrollment Exceptional Circumstances

Some people are in unusual and complicated situations that may qualify them for a special enrollment period. These exceptional circumstances include events that may have prevented enrollment in a health care plan, including:

  • Sudden hospitalization or temporary cognitive disability
  • Natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes
  • Domestic abuse or spousal abandonment
  • Human or technical errors during enrollment that were not your fault

If you think you qualify for a special enrollment period for exceptional circumstances, call the Health Insurance Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program

In all states, Medicaid provides coverage for some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Likewise, CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. CHIP also covers pregnant women in some states, and some states have expanded their Medicaid programs to cover anyone who falls below certain income levels.

If your state has expanded Medicaid, income is the only requirement. In states without expanded Medicaid, qualifications vary and may consider income, household size, disability, age, and more. Qualifications for CHIP vary from state to state. To find out if you qualify and apply for Medicaid or CHIP, go to the Health Insurance Marketplace or your state’s Medicaid agency.

Short-term health insurance is temporary health insurance that can help fill in the gaps in health care coverage. It can be a solution if you’re between jobs, have started a new job and are waiting for new coverage to begin, are waiting to become eligible for Medicare, or don’t have health insurance because you missed open enrollment. It’s not right for everyone, however, and benefits can be quite limited. Consider these pros and cons.

Aflac Offers Supplemental Insurance

Aflac’s range of supplemental insurance policies can help cover what a health plan does not. Aflac can help fill in the holes in health care coverage you may experience.

It’s Not Too Late

Insurance can be complicated, but Aflac can help you maintain peace of mind. Choose an option to get started even if you missed open enrollment.