Many Ways to Gain Health Insurance

Are You Eligible for Medicare?

If you’re over 65, have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions, or have been deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration, you may be eligible for a federal insurance program called Medicare.

Medicare’s annual election period for open enrollment occurs each year between October 15th and December 7th. Details for this program can be found at

Seeking Medicaid Plans

Medicaid does not have a single open enrollment period like other insurance types do, and accepts enrollees throughout the year. If you meet the eligibility requirements in your state, coverage is effective either on the date of the application or the first day of the month of the application. Benefits may be granted retroactively for up to 3 months prior to the month of the application if you were eligible at that time.

You may be eligible for Medicaid, a state-run program for low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. To be eligible, you must meet both a coverage category as well as not exceed income and asset requirements. Additional information can be found at

Veterans Benefits or Military Plans

TRICARE is the healthcare program for US Armed Forces military personnel, military retirees, and their dependents. There are different plans available to beneficiaries, but plan availability depends on who you are and where you live. TRICARE follows the same open enrollment as federal employees. The date changes each year, but typically runs from the middle of November to the middle of December.

You may be able to get VA health care benefits if you served in a branch of the military, naval, or air service and receive an honorable discharge. There are annual income limits for this program. You can sign up for Veterans Benefits at any time during the year.

Employer-based Plans

Each year your worksite will have a general open enrollment for current employees to make changes or select new coverage, usually a month to 60 days prior to the end of your current plan year.

Check with your employer for the exact dates, or speak with your human resources department if you have questions about your enrollment.

Choosing a Private or Commercial Plan on the Open Market

Even if you are eligible for other types of insurance, you can always explore options for private insurance that you coordinate directly. This allows you to purchase health insurance directly from the insurance company, an agent or broker specializing in insurance, or using an online marketplace yourself similar to the options you might have when shopping for a vehicle.

There is not a standardized open enrollment period if you choose to purchase an individual plan on the open market. Be aware that most health plans sold outside of their open enrollment period do not offer comprehensive coverage, so make sure you know exactly what the benefits are before you buy.

Health Insurance Marketplace

Also called Health Exchanges, these are organizations in each state where people can buy health insurance. The plans offered in the Marketplace must offer 10 essential health benefits, including preventive care, emergency services, prescription drugs, and mental and health substance abuse services. The federal government operates the Marketplace in many states although some states run their own. If you choose a policy during open enrollment it becomes effective January 1 of the following year. For 2019 plans, open enrollment runs November 1 to December 15, 2018. If you state operates its own healthcare insurance
marketplace, the open enrollment dates may differ.

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