Every year, employees have the option to change their medical coverage during “open enrollment.” Open enrollment for small employers usually is the month prior to renewal date of the policy and lasts about one or two weeks. During this time employees receive plan materials, have a chance to ask questions about plan choices, and enroll in a plan. They may add or drop dependents, choose a different medical plan, or sign up for new plan offerings, such as an optional chiropractic plan or dental plan.
Coverage begins at a specified date after open enrollment and usually runs for a full year. Some companies hold open enrollment in the fall, and coverage is effective from January 1 through December 31. If you want the best service from your agent or broker and the insurer, however, you may want to avoid the rush by planning your open enrollment period off-peak. For example, for a coverage year of July 1 to June 30, open enrollment would be in the spring.
Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance exchanges in every state will open in January, 2014. Open enrollment for the state exchanges begins in October, 2013. To learn about the exchange in your state, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/what-is-the-marketplace-in-my-state.