Why ACA Open Enrollment Dates Should be Changed

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A study by Health Affairs, recommends shifting open enrollment to February 15 to April 15. On November 15, state and federal health exchanges will open their portals and phone lines for the 2015 open enrollment season, which runs through next February 15. The end of the year is traditionally open season for health insurance.

According to the report, people make better decisions when they are not stressed by financial worries — as they often are during the end-of-year holiday season. For example, Google searches relating to financial concerns were highest in the summer and just before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Health insurance information searches dropped substantially from Thanksgiving to Christmas, but then rose sharply the last week of December and in early January.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly 19 million uninsured low- and moderate-income Americans are expected to get health insurance through the exchanges. Many file their tax returns well before the April 15 deadline and are likely to receive sizable refunds.

During the first months of the year, they feel more financially secure in anticipation of their tax refund. With the holiday season behind them, they can focus on choosing a health insurance plan. Also, between mid-February and mid-April, people are likely have more accurate calculations of their premium subsidy. Given what is known about how financial stress affects decision-making, holding open enrollment just before or during the holiday season is a mistake. The ACA’s goals of maximizing enrollment in the health plans and maintaining a healthy balance of enrollees with low and high risks of having high medical expenses are more likely to be achieved if the open enrollment season is shifted to the two months between February 15 and April 15 each year, according to the report.

Last Updated 09/23/2020

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