5 Options You Have to Get Health Insurance If You Missed Open Enrollment

February 28, 2024
3 mins read

Open enrollment periods are typically the designated times to choose or change your health insurance plans. However, life doesn’t always align with these schedules, and you might need coverage outside this window. Fortunately, there are alternatives. This article explores five viable options for securing health insurance after the open enrollment period has closed.

Short-Term Health Insurance Plans

Short-term health insurance plans are designed to provide temporary coverage and can be a suitable stopgap if you’ve missed open enrollment. These plans can last a few months to a year, offering flexibility and often lower premiums. 

However, they are not without drawbacks. Short-term plans usually offer limited coverage compared to standard health insurance policies. They might not cover pre-existing conditions or the full benefits mandated under the Affordable Care Act. They’re best suited for individuals in good health seeking coverage for unforeseen medical emergencies.

Check If You Qualify for Special Enrollment

If you’ve missed the open enrollment period, assessing whether you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) is essential. SEPs are critical lifelines that enable individuals to enroll in or change their health insurance plans outside the usual enrollment timeframe. Understanding how to apply for health insurance during these SEPs is crucial, as they offer a time-sensitive opportunity to secure coverage in response to significant life events.

Qualifying for a SEP hinges on specific life events, often marking significant changes in personal circumstances. These events include, but are not limited to:

  • Marriage or Divorce: Tying the knot or ending a marriage are significant events that can change your health insurance needs and options.
  • Birth or Adoption of a Child: Welcoming a new family member, whether through birth or adoption, typically qualifies you for a SEP. It also includes placing a child in foster care.
  • Moving to a New Coverage Area: Relocating to a different zip code or county can affect your insurance options, as different health plans operate in different areas. This change must involve moving to a new area where your current insurance does not offer coverage.
  • Death of a Family Member: If a family member on your current health plan passes away, and as a result, you lose eligibility for your current health plan, you could qualify for a SEP.
  • Changes in Income Affecting Coverage Eligibility: Fluctuations in your income can affect your eligibility for certain types of coverage, including Medicaid or subsidized plans.

If you experience one of these qualifying events, you typically have 60 days from the event date to enroll in a new health plan. This window is crucial as it allows you to adjust your health insurance coverage to suit your circumstances better.

It’s important to note that documentation proving the qualifying life event is usually required to access a SEP. It could include marriage certificates, birth certificates, proof of move, or loss of coverage documents. Prompt action and proper documentation are essential to ensure a smooth transition during this period.

Enroll in CHIP or Medicaid 

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) offer cost-effective health coverage to a vast number of Americans. These programs cater to various groups, including low-income individuals, families, children, expectant mothers, older people, and those living with disabilities.

Both programs are state-run and can enroll eligible individuals at any time of the year, meaning there’s no need to wait for an open enrollment period. Eligibility for these programs depends on your household income, family size, and the specific rules in your state.

Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

If you’re employed, check if your employer offers health insurance. Many employers provide health benefits; some might allow you to enroll outside of the open enrollment period, especially if you’re a new employee or have experienced a qualifying life event. 

One of the most significant advantages of employer-sponsored plans is their cost efficiency. Employers often pay a portion, sometimes a substantial part, of the monthly premiums. This employer contribution can make these plans.

Additionally, employer-sponsored plans are group health plans, often meaning they can negotiate better terms with insurers, including lower rates and more extensive coverage, than individual health plans.

Moreover, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance are often deducted from your salary before taxes, reducing your taxable income. This arrangement can offer significant tax advantages.

Joining a Family Member’s Plan

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made it easier for families to consolidate their health insurance coverage, offering flexibility and financial benefits. One of the hallmark provisions of the ACA is the ability for parents to keep their children on their health insurance plans until age 26. It includes children who are not living with their parents, are out of school, are not financially dependent on their parents, or are married.

For many young adults, particularly those in college or just starting their careers, remaining on a parent’s plan is often more cost-effective than seeking individual coverage. It allows them to benefit from a potentially broader network of providers and more comprehensive coverage than a family plan might offer.

If you’re married or have a domestic partner, you can typically be added to your spouse’s or partner’s health insurance plan during their open enrollment period. Qualifying life events such as marriage or the birth or adoption of a child can open a SEP, allowing you to join your spouse’s or partner’s plan outside the standard open enrollment period.


Missing the open enrollment period for health insurance can be stressful, but it’s not the end of the road. The options outlined here – from short-term insurance plans to joining a family member’s policy – provide various pathways to securing health coverage. Each option has its criteria and benefits, so it’s essential to research and find the one that best fits your needs.

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