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Open Enrollment Dates to Remember (in Washington State)

Open enrollment starts next week! Are you ready? Do you need to care? If you buy your own health insurance, then it’s an important time to decide what you are going to do for coverage in 2017. If you get your health insurance through your employer, then you can pretty much ignore it – you have your own company specific open enrollment period (if you don’t know when that is, please contact your HR department).

For those of us who need to make Health Care choices during open enrollment, here are a few reminders:


November 1, 2016: First day of open enrollment. Plans will be effective January 1, 2017.

December 23, 2016: Last day to apply or renew for a plan to be effective January 1, 2017.

NOTE: Washington state has a later deadline than the Federal Exchange (December 15, 2016), so you may hear December 15 advertised.

January 23, 2016: Apply for coverage by January 23 and your coverage will be effective February 1, 2017. You may end up with a coverage gap in January.

January 31, 2017: Last day of open enrollment. You may have a coverage gap in January and February.


While it can be nice to get your renewal processed quickly, there are situations where it makes sense to delay things. Do not feel like you need to renew your policy on November 1. I often recommend giving the system a few days to stabilize – let the Washington HealthPlanFinder work out any kinks and get the bugs out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the system is slow to respond or goes down periodically the first couple of days. That’s ok – you will have plenty of time to take action.

Reasons to delay your renewal until after November 23:

Some people should wait until after November 23 to renew their policy, even if the system is working well. The Washington HealthPlanFinder makes your updates in real time – it doesn’t ask you for an effective date. If you make a change before the 23rd of any month, the system will apply those changes to the following month. Sometimes that isn’t a big deal, but at the end of the year it can create real problems.

  • Did you purchase your coverage through the Washington HealthPlanFinder?

  • Do you receive tax credits or cost share reductions (such as a lower deductible due to your income)?

  • Do you need to make changes to your income or household that will be effective only in 2017 (but not in 2016)?

  • Examples include a pay raise that is scheduled for January 1 or a child that was your tax dependent in 2016, and will switch to another parent’s household for 2017.

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions, I strongly recommend that you wait to renew your policy under after November 23. If you renew your policy from November 1 – 23, then any changes you make could significantly change your coverage for December 2016. You could lose a tax credit, or gain a tax credit that you may have to pay back. If you currently qualify for cost share reductions (such as a lower deductible), a renewal that processes early could bump your deductible higher and create additional costs for any medical care you need in December.

Do you still have questions about when to renew your policy? Contact us, we are here to help!

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