Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services issued final regulations shortening the open enrollment period for buying 2018 Exchange coverage. The shortened period starts on November 1, 2017 and runs until December 15, 2017 with coverage starting January 1, 2018. Under the regulations, state-based Exchanges, such as Covered California, have the option to extend the enrollment period for 2018 coverage. Covered California’s open enrollment for 2018 will start on November 1, 2017 and end January 31, 2018.
The California Legislature is also taking steps to keep a three-month open enrollment period in future years. Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) introduced AB 156 that would establish an open enrollment period that starts on October 15th and ends January 15th for 2019 and beyond. It would apply to individual market coverage both on and off the Exchange. The bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee; however, it will likely be put on hold because the 2017 legislative session is shortly coming to a close.
There are reasons for wanting to keep a longer open enrollment period. Transitioning to a shorter open enrollment period could result in lower enrollment, which could negatively impact the risk pool and result in higher premiums. The timing also raises concerns because cash-strapped consumers may be forced to make difficult health care and financial choices during the holidays.