Open enrollment on health insurance exchanges refers to the time period in which qualified individuals can enroll in a health insurance plan. Created as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the exchanges or marketplaces offering insurance plans are administered by the federal or local governments.
The open enrollment period for a given year always begins during the previous year. For example, the open enrollment period for a 2015 health insurance plan extends from Nov. 15, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015. Plans previously purchased on the exchange can be renewed during the open enrollment period for the subsequent year or changed to a different policy.
Health insurance exchanges feature both private and public health insurance plans. These plans are available to those who were previously denied or cannot afford traditional health insurance plans.
Failure to possess an active health insurance plan can result in a penalty, equalling a flat fee or a small percentage of the non-insured person's income. The open enrollment period may be extended to those who could not procure an insurance plan from the marketplace. This special enrollment period is typically granted to those impeded from applying during open enrollment as a result of a special circumstance, such as a loss of employment or a divorce.