Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • The Affordable Care Act set an annual insurance cycle based in the calendar year
  • Marketplace policies end on the last day of December
  • Employer policies can begin at any time of the year
  • Most policies end and renew on a 12-month cycle
  • Medicare uses a calendar year cycle to set benefits

Health insurance must be renewed or enrolled every year. Obamacare annual contracts set the terms of obligations, benefits, and the start and ending points for coverage. The Affordable Care Act set a strong national policy to set health insurance agreements on the calendar year.

The insurers can prepare plans, coverage, benefits, and premiums on similar databases. Insurance information depends on critical factors that include time and location.

Comparison shopping is a powerful analytic tool. It helps focus the search for health insurance on the customer’s primary concerns. Click here to compare free online health insurance quotes today!

Health Insurance Plans Rely on Information


Insurance companies must rely on time-sensitive information about the population they serve. They must use a form of community rating when setting premiums. This limits the variations in premium prices that they can do. They can vary rates for consumers on the same policy offering by the below-listed factors.

  • Age – The modified community rating keeps the lowest age premium within a multiple of three of the older members.
  • Family size – This price factor will be directly proportional to the premium.
  • Location – This is a permissible price factor, but it is limited in its impact by the rating rules.
  • Tobacco usage – This is a rating factor but limited by a ratio to non-smoker premiums.

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Health Insurance uses Networks


Managed care depends on network agreements. For most insurers and providers, these are yearly agreements. The insurers get commitments based on a particular term. The service periods usually run for one year.

In today’s competitive markets, few agreements run for multiple years.

The one-year term protects insurers against sudden market changes, and then the insurers and medical service providers consider the future. The Marketplace policies begin with a maximum twelve months of coverage.

Open Enrollment is the Beginning

Obamacare policies begin with enrollment during the open enrollment period. Running from November 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017, the policies start as early as the first day of the year.

The end of enrollment for 2017 closes the purchase option for marketplace subsidies and benefits. The policies run from January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2017.

Calendar Year for Marketplace Policies


Policies purchased in the Obamacare Marketplace and the state exchanges end at the end of the calendar year. Some will issue notices to renew while other will no longer be available.

Consumers should look at the policies offered each year to find the best value. Tax credits help keep costs affordable and also work on the calendar year cycle. Comparison shopping is the preferred method for rating policies of the various types.

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Employer Sponsored health plans

Employers can begin their insurance year at any time. They may find it easier or less costly to do it at the same time as the federal system. Employer insurance can end when the job ends.

COBRA Benefits

Cobra benefits can help save the loss of insurance and other protections that an employee gained while employed. At the loss of employment, the COBRA benefits begin. This law provides for the temporary extension of health insurance benefits with payment of premiums. For those that can afford the higher prices, they can maintain the health protections they had while employed.


Medicare uses the Calendar year to set benefits, rates, and renewals. It uses an open season that runs from October 15 through December 7 of each calendar year. Private plans for health and prescription drug benefits end with the calendar year.

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Medicaid and Chip


There is no annual cycle for Medicaid and CHIP participation. The rules vary by each state. Overall, the most common practice is to confirm eligibility at least once within a 12 month period. Usually, this coincides with the date of first approval or acceptance. Members may have to confirm status and demonstrate eligibility.

Health Insurance is an Annual Cycle

Health Insurance normally runs for a one year period before one must make some form of renewal, enrollment, or verification. Obamacare policies run for the calendar year from January through December of each year. Mandatory coverage begins with the first day of January of each calendar year unless otherwise ordered.

Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP do not end at the year’s end but require some form of verification. Job-related insurance can end when the job ends. Comparison shopping is a helpful method for selecting health insurance. It uses the customer’s research, experience and concerns to guide the search.

Comparison shopping is a helpful method for selecting health insurance. It uses the customer’s research, experience and concerns to guide the search. Enter your zip below to get matched with your state’s top-rated health insurance providers today!