The Open Enrollment Period could be changing again

Three years, three different enrollment periods. At least that’s the plan – as we all know, plans are always subject to change. The AP is reporting that regulators have proposed that the open enrollment period for 2016 start October 1st and end December 15th. That’s an earlier start date, earlier end date, and shorter enrollment period than we had this year and will require agents to become even more efficient with their time.

The good news about the proposed open enrollment period is that anyone who signs up would have coverage by January 1st and would avoid an individual mandate penalty in 2016, when the penalty amounts go up again. The bad news is that insurance companies will have to scramble to get their 2016 rates submitted in time, and they “won’t have much 2015 claims data or other information on hand as they develop their 2016 products, networks and rates,” which could result in higher-than-necessary premiums or a decision by some insurance companies not to offer coverage in the individual market.

For brokers, the proposed change would cause the open enrollment period to overlap with the Annual Election Period for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans, which runs from October 15th through December 7th. It would also overlap with the busiest time for group insurance agents since December 1st and January 1st are the two most popular effective dates. And, of course, it would overlap with the holiday season.

Despite the challenges, we do always try to look for the opportunity in any of the administration’s decisions, so here goes… Because the proposed open enrollment period will make it difficult for agents who specialize in either Medicare products or group products to sell individual plans, this creates an opportunity for agents who do have an individual private exchange solution to team up with these brokers and absorb the excess volume. In other words, brokers who have a way to sign up individuals quickly and efficiently can pick up a lot of additional business. Learn more here.

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