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 Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • If you buy a plan on the 1st through the 15th, coverage probably starts on the 1st of the next month
  • If you buy a plan on the 16th through the end of the month, coverage probably starts the month after next
  • Having a baby, getting married, or losing your job are exceptions

If you’re having a hard time figuring out when a health insurance plan starts, rest assured that you’re not alone. Many people find health insurance to be extremely complicated. Coverage start dates are one of the most confusing aspects of medical insurance. You need to pay close attention to the fine print of your plan to figure out when it starts.

If you are still confused, don’t be afraid to ask your insurance company for clarification. In the last few years, insurance companies have improved their customer service due to widespread demand. When you are comparing health insurance quotes, be sure to check out the customer services offered by each insurer.

Enter your zip above and compare quotes from your state’s top-rated health insurance providers free of charge!

What is a coverage start date?

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The coverage start date refers to the day that your insurance company will start helping you pay for your medical expenses. Anything that happens before that day isn’t their problem. It is important to keep in mind that coverage start dates are rarely immediate. That is, health insurance coverage rarely begins on the day that you purchase the policy.

Sometimes it may even be more than a month away. How the actual start date for your health insurance is determined depends on which insurer you choose when comparing quotes. Most insurers use a system that assigns a start date in relation to which half of the month you buy your plan in.

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Open Enrollment Plan Start Dates

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The way a coverage start date is determined depends on the period in which you sign up for the plan. Plans with open enrollment periods calculate coverage start dates in a slightly different way than plans obtained during special enrollment periods. The way that most insurers calculate coverage start dates for open enrollment plans is as follows:

1. A plan that you enroll in and pay the premium for between the 1st and 15th of the month starts the first day of the following month.

2. A plan that you enroll in and pay for between the 16th and the last day of the month doesn’t start until the month after the following month. For example, a plan purchased on December 17th does not start on January 1st. Instead, it starts on February 1st.

Tips for Signing Up with Open Enrollment

It is important to watch what date you sign up for a plan. It may be best to sign up for a new health insurance plan between the 1st and 15th of the current month. Of course, sometimes this not possible.

If it isn’t possible, keep in mind that you will have to wait over a month for the coverage from your new plan to start.

Special Enrollment Periods

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There are several circumstances that allow people to sign up for health insurance outside of open enrollment periods. The most common ways that people qualify for special enrollment periods is through moving or getting divorced.

There may be a few other circumstances that’ll qualify you for a special enrollment period. Check the insurer’s requirements when comparing quotes.

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How they affect coverage start dates

Coverage start dates with special enrollment plans are generally figured out the same way as they are with plans purchased during open enrollment periods. As a further example, if you buy a plan during a special enrollment period on August 1st, your plan will start on September 1st.

If you buy a plan during a special enrollment period on August 16th, your plan will not start until October 1st. Check the insurer’s policies when comparing quotes to be sure.

Exceptions to Coverage Start Dates

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There are two main exceptions to this method of determining coverage start dates. These exceptions are federal law, so all insurer’s must follow them. A baby’s health insurance plan starts the day it is born or the day you become its legal guardian.

The other exception is when you have to switch insurance plans because you get married or lose your job, your new insurance company has to cover from the beginning of the next month. This is true even if you sign up for coverage on the 31st of the month.

Making Sure Your Coverage Starts as Soon as Possible

There are two things you have to do before your insurance plan can start. It is important to do both of these things, or your coverage will not take effect. First, you must complete all of the enrollment forms. As with other forms of insurance, signing up for health insurance usually involves a lot of paperwork.

This paperwork can be a huge pain, but it is vital to complete all of it. Next, you have to pay your first month’s payment. It may seem a little weird for you to pay your first bill before your coverage actually starts, but this is the way things are done in the insurance world.

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