Americans without employer-provided insurance can apply for health insurance online using either a state healthcare marketplace or the federally operated healthcare marketplace, depending on the person's state residency. Individuals can also apply for health insurance on the websites of some providers, such as Aetna and UnitedHealthcare.
Open enrollment for the state and federal health insurance marketplaces typically runs for only a few months, and people who miss this deadline cannot usually purchase a new plan or make changes to a purchased plan after the open enrollment period ends. Individuals who experience a major life event, such as losing a job, having a baby or getting married, may be able to apply for a new plan outside of the open enrollment period.
While many health insurance companies allow people to apply for insurance any time of year, applicants cannot get government-provided health insurance subsidies for plans purchased anywhere other than through the federal or state healthcare exchanges. Subsidies are based on income, so this information must be included on applications made through the government-run exchanges. People who do not have health insurance are charged a fee at tax time, but this fee is waived for those who qualify for an exemption.