Employee Benefits

What To Do if You Miss Open Enrollment for Benefits

3 min read
Jan 05, 2024

Benefits open enrollment or annual enrollment is a window of time each year when you can review your current benefits selections and update them as needed. Typically, open enrollment periods occur once a year, although the exact dates depend on where your coverage comes from —  your employer or the insurance marketplace.

What happens if you miss open enrollment?

If you miss your open enrollment window, a couple of things may happen:

  • Your existing coverage may automatically continue into the next benefits period or year if you already have insurance through your employer or an individual plan.
  • You may go into the next benefits period or year without coverage if you don’t already have a plan or don’t experience a qualifying life event.

What to do if you miss open enrollment

1. Double-check your open enrollment dates.

First and foremost, confirm your benefits enrollment dates. As mentioned above, dates differ depending on where you get coverage from. If you receive benefits from your employer, confirm the window with them. Some companies have open enrollment periods outside the standard enrollment windows. But often, open enrollment takes place once a year.

Remember, if you enroll in health insurance through the healthcare marketplace, you have until January 15. 2024, to enroll. If you enroll by December 15, 2023, your coverage starts January 1, 2024. If you enroll December 16, 2023, through January 15, 2024, your coverage starts February 1, 2024.1

2. Speak to your HR representative or benefits coordinator.

If you receive benefits through your employer and missed open enrollment at work, ask your benefits team about other available options. They’ll be able to go over the terms and qualifications associated with a special enrollment period (more about that below).

Before the new insurance starts on your benefits effective date, reach out to your employer to see if you can still make adjustments to your benefits. Employers may have some flexibility in accommodating changes before coverage officially begins for the new year.

3. Research qualifying life events (QLEs)

If you’ve experienced a qualifying life event (QLE) — such as getting married or turning 26 (and losing coverage through your parent’s plan), or if you are starting a new job — you may be eligible for a special window during which you can enroll for benefits.

This applies to plans through both your employer and the healthcare marketplace. You can typically apply for special enrollment within 30 or 60 days of your QLE, depending on where you receive your coverage.

4. Explore your options.

Many workplaces offer voluntary benefits, often referred to as supplemental insurance, in addition to medical insurance. If you miss your open enrollment period and are unable to enroll in a spouse’s plan, you could enroll in individual supplemental insurance plans directly through an insurance provider instead of your employer. But you may lose out on the discounted rates often associated with enrolling through your employer.

For medical coverage, you can explore other options like short-term health insurance from a private insurance provider, Medicaid, or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). While they don’t have limited enrollment windows, there are certain qualifications you’ll need to meet. Note that not all states participate in short-term coverage.

Tips to avoid missing the open enrollment deadline

Here are simple ways to make sure you don’t miss open enrollment:

  • Know the deadlines for your employer’s or the federal marketplace’s enrollment periods. 
  • Set a reminder for when open enrollment begins.
  • If you’re enrolled in insurance through your employer, keep an eye out for reminders from them and add the specific enrollment dates to your calendar.
  • Stay informed by attending any information sessions or webinars your employer might offer.
  • Anticipate your needs for the upcoming year to help streamline the decision-making process when it comes time to select benefits.
  • Contact your HR department or the insurance marketplace for open enrollment support.
  • Review insurance terms and benefit details to get a better understanding of the options available to you.

Prepare for Open Enrollment

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This article is intended to provide general information about insurance. It does not describe any MetLife product or feature.

 1 “A quick guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace,” HealthCare.gov