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Open enrollment is when you can buy, change or update your health insurance plan. Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA) runs from November 1 through January 31.

This is the only time you can buy health insurance on the exchange, unless you have a qualifying life event. We know that for many of you, the insurance plan you are currently on is not being offered any longer OR is being offered at a significantly higher cost.

If that is the case, you need to start an account in the exchange or log back into your previous account to shop for a new plan. We’ve put together a handy step-by-step guide.


Brainstorm some basics. It helps to do a little homework beforehand. Think about how you want to balance premiums and deductibles. Do you have any regular medical expenditures (screenings, treatments, medicine, etc.) that you need to be covered? Are you at high risk for a disease like colon cancer or diabetes? All of these can help determine which plan is best for you.

Some questions to start with:

  • How many people are you trying to cover?
  • Do they have any chronic diseases or special medical needs?
  • Would you benefit from low premium/high deductible or high premium/low deductible plans?

Want to know what screening tests are covered by which plans in your state? Prevent Cancer has a tool for that. Want to compare prices of coverage? Kaiser Family Foundation has a price calculator. Need to know basic terms? Check out our blog.

Certain things are required to be covered by law. You can find out what they are here.


Take some time to familiarize yourself with healthcare.gov website. The site has lots of good resources and may answers some questions you didn’t realize you had.

  • Gather addresses and social security numbers for yourself, your spouse and your dependents.
  • Set aside a couple of hours.

Start using the online tools to compare plans.

  • Use the online price calculator to see what you can afford and find any rebates and subsidies
  • Use an online tool to compare plans
  • Find out if your state has its own exchange


  • Go to gov website and enroll.
  • You have a limited time to sign up, so don’t delay.


We get it – insurance can be tough, especially for those with pre-existing conditions like cancer patients. Check out Crawford Clay and his family’s experience, featured in The Free Lance-Star, about trying to find health insurance as a cancer patient.


Related reading

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