Open Enrollment Basics

November 1, 2019

Welcome to Open Enrollment! You may have started getting emails or advertisements for the start of Open Enrollment on November 1, but it’s possible you don’t quite know what that means.

That's okay. We’re here to help.

What exactly is Open Enrollment and who is it for?

Open Enrollment refers to the period of time each year when anyone who needs to purchase their own health insurance plan can compare and enroll in plans for the following year’s coverage. You will need to purchase your own health insurance if you don't already have coverage from an employer, a spouse or parent's employer, TRICARE, the VA, or Medicare.

Open enrollment for the fall of 2019 is the time when you are eligible to purchase insurance for 2020. This is true even if you and your family are already enrolled in a 2019 plan. To compare and enroll in plans, you can use the federal or a state marketplace, (depending on the state where you live) or you can choose to use a company like Catch, which has its own set of benefits.

What is the Marketplace?

An important part of the Affordable Care Act was the creation of health insurance marketplaces. States were permitted to create their own markets, or take part in a federal marketplace (, to sell insurance to individuals who otherwise don't have access.

The plans on the marketplace have some special characteristics. All marketplace plans cover Essential Health Benefits, which mean most types of standard care and coverage are part of any plan you purchase on the marketplace. You may see advertisements about plans that are "off-market," which means they aren't sold through a government-verified channel. This doesn't necessarily mean the plans are bad, but you should be very careful to understand the difference of plans that are sold directly from insurance companies. If the premium seems too good to be true, it may be that you're sacrificing coverage.

Catch offers all of the plans that are available through a connection to the federal marketplace. We also have a direct partnership with an Association Health Plan called Decent in Austin, Texas, who offer high quality of care and affordable prices specifically for freelancers. When you look for plans through Catch, the plans and prices you see are the same as if you were to use

Is there a way to get more affordable plans?

In addition to creating marketplaces, the Affordable Care Act outlined a process to help lower costs for health insurance. Depending on your income and family status, you may qualify for tax credits, which reduce your premiums, and/or subsidies, which can lower the amount you pay to receive care.

If you're using Catch, we can help you find out if you qualify and enroll you directly in those programs for cost savings. It's up to you if you want to apply, but 87% of people qualify for some sort of cost reduction (Kauffman Family Foundation). This means the "sticker price" you see for your insurance may be far higher than what you actually pay.

Why use Catch during Open Enrollment?

The benefit to using Catch is that we simplify the process of comparing plans, finding savings, and enrolling in plans in the same place where you can keep the rest of your benefits, like tax withholding and retirement. You can complete the entire process through Catch and can store all the important documents you need for your health insurance and your other benefits all in one convenient place.

Using Catch also means that you have access to support from Catch's licensed insurance agents, who can help guide you through the application process.

When is Open Enrollment?

For most states, open enrollment to enroll in a health insurance plan for the year 2020 is November 1 - December 15, 2019.

For the following states, the open enrollment period starts on November 1, but ends a bit later. Here are those states and their end dates:

  • California - January 15, 2020
  • Colorado - January 15, 2020
  • Massachusetts - January 23, 2020
  • Minnesota - December 23, 2019
  • New York - January 31, 2020
  • Rhode Island - December 31, 2019
  • Washington DC - January 31, 2020

Keep in mind, you should purchase health insurance in the state where you live, not the state where you work.

If you don’t enroll in health insurance during the Open Enrollment Period, you won’t be eligible to purchase a marketplace plan unless you experience a qualifying life event like getting married, losing coverage, moving to a new state, or having/adopting a child. A qualifying life event must happen for you to be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period.

To find out if you qualify for marketplace savings and to compare all health plans and enroll in time for Open Enrollment, visit Catch.

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