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What Is Open Enrollment?

For millions of Americans, the end of the year is open enrollment season — a yearly opportunity to take stock of your health care needs and select the health insurance plan that works best for you.

There are more choices than ever to help you find a plan that will best suit your health needs. Think of it like planning a trip: you don’t pack a surfboard if you want to hike in the Adirondack mountains. Take the time to really consider your health care needs, and those of the people your plan may cover, when choosing your health plan for the next year. For example, does it include your prescriptions or preferred doctors? What does it cost? Open enrollment is also a great time to explore the benefits already available to you in your current plan, including discounts and wellness opportunities that can help you save money and stay healthy.

Let’s break it all down to help you make your decision.

What You Need to Know

The first thing to know is where you can get a health insurance plan. You may be able to get a plan through your employer. You may want to buy coverage on your own. If you are 65 years old or older or have certain disabilities, you may qualify for Medicare. And families with lower household incomes may qualify for Medicaid.

No matter the type of health coverage you need, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

  • Missing a deadline to enroll in coverage could mean missing out. Be sure to pay attention to dates and deadlines for enrollment. Medicare open enrollment begins on October 15 and ends on December 7. Individual coverage through the online marketplace begins November 1 and ends on January 15 of next year in most states. Your employer will let you know when the enrollment period for your employer-provided coverage starts and ends, since it can vary.
  • Make an informed decision. Open enrollment is an important chance to choose the coverage that meets your current needs. Spend the time (with a spouse or partner, if you plan to cover more than yourself) to understand the details and do the math. Typically, plan offerings will cover similar services, but will have different costs and cost structures. For example, if you are willing to pay more toward your premium, you are likely to pay less out of pocket for health care services, and vice versa.
  • Know what you want and need from your plan. Learn answers to questions like these:
    • Do I regularly see a doctor or clinician, have a chronic condition, or need prescription drugs regularly?
    • Are all my doctors in network?
    • Do I expect to use services like preventive care and annual check-ups?
    • What types of care are covered?
    • How much will I pay for my prescription drugs?
    • What are the out-of-pocket costs for my doctors (including copays and coinsurance)?
    • What measures of quality are there for the health plans I am considering, and how do I make these quality measures a part of my thinking?
    • Do I prefer a lower monthly premium but higher out-of-pocket expenses or a higher premium and lower out-of-pocket expenses?
  • Your health plan is an investment in your health and financial security. Use it! The arrival of your ID card opens the door to health care services for you and your plan dependents. Get recommended preventive care, including screenings and vaccinations. Fill and take the medications prescribed to you. And take advantage of wellness programs, nutrition guidance, sleep, mindfulness programs, and other supports your plan offers to help you stay well.

Now, let’s get into some specifics about different health insurance types.

Medicare Coverage

Enrollment Period: Oct. 15 – Dec. 7

If you are 65 or older, disabled, or turning 65 in 2024, it’s time to start thinking about Medicare — and particularly Medicare Advantage plans — at

Medicare is our nation’s health care plan for adults 65 and older and people with disabilities. Original Medicare comes in “parts” that cover:

  • Hospitals (Part A)
  • Physicians (Part B)
  • Prescription drugs (Part D)

People eligible for Medicare may also choose to get coverage for their prescription medications through Part D.

Medicare Advantage (sometimes called Part C) plans offer Americans even more choices. Medicare Advantage plans have a strong track record delivering high-quality care at an affordable price — including many with $0 premiums. Offered by health insurance providers, Medicare Advantage covers all the same services as Parts A and B, and bundles in many other important benefits such as dental, vision, hearing, prescription drugs, care coordination, mental health support, wellness benefits, transportation, and social connectivity.

Key Things to Know: Medicare Advantage

  • Medicare Advantage is popular. More than Half of all people eligible for Medicare have chosen a Medicare Advantage plan, up from 42% in 2020. In 2023, 30.8 million seniors and people with disabilities choose Medicare Advantage because it delivers better services, better access to care, and better value.
  • Premiums remain stable. While some participants may see a slight monthly increase of 64 cents for 2024 – from $17.86 to $18.50 – most will not see any increase at all. Among enrollees who keep their plan for next year, 73% will not see any premium increase. In addition, many Medicare Advantage plans offer $0 monthly premiums. Plus, Medicare Advantage plans cap your annual out-of-pocket costs, which original Medicare does not do.
  • Open enrollment ends December 7. Open enrollment for Medicare Advantage starts on October 15 and ends December 7 every year. Learn more about plans in your area at

Keep in mind that you have the option to enroll in other programs that supplement Medicare coverage. These options work to protect you from high out-of-pocket costs not covered by original Medicare to budget for medical expenses, and even to avoid the confusion and inconvenience of handling complex bills from health care providers.

Individual Coverage

Enrollment Period: Nov. 1, 2022 – Jan. 15, 2023 (but check your state)

The Individual Marketplace — through online health exchanges — serves people under 65 who buy coverage on their own.

Today, nearly 21 million hardworking Americans buy health care coverage on their own in what is broadly referred to as the individual market. The ability to shop and compare plans online at the health exchange ( was established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and celebrates its 11th anniversary in 2024. Enrollment is growing thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act premium subsidies, which were extended through 2025. Four out of five people shopping on were able find a plan for $10 or less after available tax credits. The exchanges offer comprehensive coverage with access to 10 essential health benefits, prescription drug coverage, no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and no annual or lifetime limits.

For 2024, Federal officials redesigned to make it easier to understand how much coverage will cost for the year. The site’s application will also ask optional questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to better inform CMS about health disparities.

Key Things to Know: Individual Coverage

  • Important dates: Open enrollment at begins November 1 and ends December 15 for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2024, and on January 15, 2024 for plans that begin on February 1, 2024. If your state operates its own exchange, please check your state’s website for more information about open enrollment deadlines. For example, in 2024 Virginia is moving off and will run its own enrollment site.
  • More choices in health insurance providers: Insurer participation in 2024 will be more robust, with more insurers entering new markets than there are plans exiting the marketplace.
  • You may be eligible for a subsidy: You can learn more about your options and find out if you are eligible for premium subsidies.

Employer-Provided Coverage

Enrollment Period: Varies by Employer

If you get health care coverage through your employer, pay attention to deadlines and be sure to ask questions.

More than 180 million Americans get their health coverage through their job. Thanks to competition among health insurance providers in every state, employees and employers have access to high-quality and more affordable care. Unlike other forms of health coverage like those we’ve outlined above, open enrollment for employer-provided coverage can vary depending on where you work. That is why it is important to stay abreast of deadlines and learn more about the coverage options offered by your employer.

Key Things to Know: Employer-Provided Coverage

  • 89% of all American workers are employed by a company that offers benefits.
  • 63% of Americans are satisfied with their current employer-provided coverage

Bottom Line

Health insurance providers are committed to helping all Americans make informed health coverage choices for themselves and their families.

Health insurance coverage is an important way to protect yourself and your family. There are many choices available whether you are navigating the individual market, covered through your employer, or are eligible for Medicare.

Regardless of where you shop for health care, remember:

  • Take the time to review available coverage choices to decide which plan is right for you.
  • When making decisions about your health coverage, it’s important to think about what you want for your health care, as well as what will best protect you financially.
  • Use your benefits to help you stay healthy and be an active part of your own well-being.