How to Switch Health Insurance Plans After Open Enrollment

Jenifer Dorsey
August 19th, 2019 January 3rd, 2019 |
Read time: 9 minutes

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You’re all set with your new health insurance for 2019. (Nice work!) But what happens if you’re second-guessing your decision? Maybe you’ve learned your preferred healthcare provider isn’t in network or your deductible feels unaffordable.

Can you change health insurance after open enrollment?

Depending on your specific situation, if buyer’s remorse sets in, you may be able to:

  1. Change health insurance outside of open enrollment, or
  2. Apply for supplemental or alternative health insurance to help cover your unexpected medical expenses.

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When can you switch health insurance plans?

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, there are two times when you can choose a new major medical health insurance policy:

During the annual open enrollment period

If you buy health insurance during open enrollment and change your mind,you can still make changes before open enrollment ends.

In most states, health insurance open enrollment for plans beginning Jan. 1, 2019, took place from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2018.1 That means if you are reading this, open enrollment is probably over.

The open enrollment period for 2020 coverage will begin Nov. 1, 2019, and run to Dec. 15, 2019, except in some states that have extended open enrollment periods. Plans sold during this open enrollment period have coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2020.2

During a special enrollment period

You might be able to switch health insurance plans outside of open enrollment if you experience a qualifying life event such as getting married or divorced, having a child, moving to a new coverage area or losing job-based coverage.3

Such events trigger what is called a special enrollment period, a limited time period in which you can buy a new Obamacare plan. In most circumstances, special enrollment lasts 60 days from the qualifying life event.4

Learn more about special enrollment.

Do You Qualify for an Affordable Care Act Subsidy?

Use the ACA Subsidy Calculator to find out if you can get financial help if you enroll in ACA-qualifying major medical insurance. Learn more about subsidies.

Can you just cancel your Obamacare plan?

Let’s say you want to switch health insurance plans halfway through the year and don’t qualify for special enrollment, but you’d still like to cancel your current coverage. Is that an option?

Yes, it’s possible. However, it could leave your finances vulnerable to unexpected medical bills should you become sick or injured.

You may want to consider a supplemental gap health plan or alternative health insurance like short term medical or hospital indemnity insurance. We’ll talk about these options, which are available year-round, next.

Find out how to cancel your health insurance.

Insurance With Lower Monthly Premiums

Short term health insurance can provide temporary and limited benefits for a lower premium if you qualify. STM is not a replacement for comprehensive major medical coverage. 

What to do if you can’t switch health insurance

Add supplemental health insurance

Afraid you can’t afford to meet your Obamacare deductible? You’re not alone. 43% of insured adults said they had difficulty affording their deductible in 2017.5

It may seem counterintuitive, but buying supplemental benefits could help you with out-of-pocket medical expenses, including those not covered by your major medical policy as well as the covered medical expenses you’re responsible for until you reach your policy deductible.

Gap health insurance is a type of supplemental insurance that pays a fixed lump-sum benefit when you experience a covered accident or critical illness.

You can use that benefit to help pay your deductible, coinsurance or other expenses as you see fit.

Get an Instant Gap Health Insurance Quote

You might also want to consider health insurance add-ons such as telemedicine and prescription drug cards; they are not health insurance products, but they can help lower what you pay out of pocket for certain medical expenses.

Learn more about health insurance add-ons.

Apply for non-ACA health insurance

If you wind up without major medical insurance (i.e., an Obamacare plan), then you may want to look into non-ACA coverage such as:

  • Short term health insurance, which provides temporary coverage for as few as 30 days and up to 364 days, depending on your state. Short term policy benefits cover a range of medical expenses related to injuries and unexpected illnesses; however, most policies exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • Hospital insurance, which pays fixed benefit amounts when you incur a covered hospital-related expense such as hospital room and board, inpatient prescription medications, inpatient and outpatient surgery, and more.

These policies are available year-round. However, they are not available in every state, and coverage is not guaranteed issue. These are not comprehensive, ACA-compliant policies, which means they do not include all essential health benefits; as a result, you may experience lower monthly premiums but will have fewer policy benefits. Premiums vary based on benefits selected.

Compare the costs and coverage for short term medical insurance plans available to you.

Get a Short Term Health Insurance Quote 

What if you can’t afford your Obamacare plan anymore?

What happens if you simply can’t afford your health insurance premium at some point in the year? If you don’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you can’t switch. You may want to consider one of the options discussed above (supplemental or alternative health insurance).

If you find yourself in a position where your current health insurance is unaffordable, remember: You don’t have to make these decisions alone and guess the best course of action.

Work with a health insurance agent who can help find the best solution for you either on or away from the state-based and federally facilitated health insurance exchanges.

Search Agent Finder for a health insurance agent near you, or call 888-855-6837 to speak with a licensed agent.

Individualized Health Insurance Coverage

One-size-fits-all health insurance may not be right for you. Learn about insurance options to meet your unique needs.

Speak to a licensed agent today.

A note about the ACA tax penalty in 2019

The individual federal mandate will not be enforced in 2019. Depending on your state, you may no longer owe a tax penalty if you go without health insurance that is considered minimum essential coverage (e.g., major medical insurance, Medicare, Medicaid).

Learn more about the elimination of the individual mandate federal tax penalty.

Summary + next steps

If for any reason, you’re interested in changing health insurance after open enrollment, you do have some options: special enrollment, adding supplemental health insurance, or canceling your current coverage and enrolling in alternative health insurance.

How to make the switch (and what to switch to) ultimately depends on your life circumstances and coverage needs. There are many resources available to help you decide.

  1. Find a local agent.
  2. Call 888-855-6837 to speak with a licensed agent now.
  3. Research supplemental and alternative health insurance and gather quotes on your own.
  4. Contact or your state exchange.

Need Supplemental or Short Term Insurance?

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Originally Published On April 10th, 2018
Independence American Insurance Company and/or Madison National Life Insurance Company, Inc. may underwrite the products referenced on this website. Legal Disclaimers.


Get Health Insurance for 2020

Open enrollment is Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2019 in most states. Find out if you could qualify for an ACA subsidy.


ACA Subsidy Calculator