Getting covered 101: How to get health insurance during open enrollment

Not sure if you need health insurance? Want insurance but not sure how to get it? We've got you covered.

UPDATE: President Biden has opened the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act health insurance plans for 2022. You can now enroll in one of these plans until January 15, 2022, at Some states have their own open enrollment periods and websites for signing up. Check to see if your state does. We also have more information about how to get insurance and learn what kinds of plans to watch out for.

Still waiting to get health insurance? Getting covered may seem complicated, but for most of us, affordable, quality insurance is just a few steps away. If you haven’t signed up yet for 2019 coverage, or if you’ve never signed up period, don’t worry—we’re here to get you up to speed on the basics!

Open enrollment is the period between November 1, 2018, and December 15, 2018, when you can enroll in health insurance through Even if you consider yourself totally healthy, everyone can benefit from having health insurance. Getting preventive care can keep you healthier over time, and unforeseen accidents and illnesses can happen to any of us. Without coverage, medical bills can add up quickly!

Does the Affordable Care Act still exist?

Yes! In 2017, President Trump talked about repealing the Affordable Care Act (also called the ACA or Obamacare) and Congress tried several times to do so. Congress ended up repealing one component of the law—the individual mandate, which required people to have health insurance or pay a penalty on their federal taxes. Understandably, this caused people a lot of confusion about the status of the law overall. In addition, the Supreme Court will hear a case in November 2020 that will decide the future of the ACA, but they won’t make any decisions until Spring 2021, and it will still be in place in the meantime. As of now, the ACA still stands and the marketplace is open for business.

Coverage under the ACA provides lots of protections and benefits to make sure you’re treated fairly in the health insurance marketplace and get real value out of your health plan. Think you can’t afford insurance? Thanks to premium tax credits, which are based on your income, you may be pleasantly surprised.

So what’s in it for me?

  1. You can stay on your parent or guardian’s plan until you’re 26. If your parent or guardian has health coverage that covers dependents, you can stay on or re-join their plan. Under most plans, you can stay enrolled even if you don’t live with them, or if you get married or have a child of your own.

  2. You can get check-ups for $0. Preventive care tests and screenings are 100% covered without copays or deductibles. That means services provided in an annual physical exam like high blood pressure tests and immunization vaccines, as well as sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, flu shots, and more can be a regular part of your self-care regimen without worrying about the cost. Practicing good preventive care can help you prepare for the future and catch any unexpected changes in your health early.

  3. Get coverage for your pre-existing condition(s). Before the ACA insurers were able to deny people care or charge them more because of “pre-existing conditions,” or chronic illnesses (like asthma or diabetes) that they had before they tried to enroll. Today, you can’t be turned away or forced to pay higher rates based on these types of conditions.

  4. Get women’s health care (including birth control) with no copays. Birth control is considered preventive care, so once you’re covered you can get it with zero copay! You can also keep tabs on your health by having a well-woman visit and mammogram free of charge. Bonus: If you decide you’re ready for a baby, you can also receive breastfeeding support and counseling with no out-of-pocket costs.

  5. It may be more affordable than you think. If you’re starting out in your career or in school, your budget may be tight and it may seem difficult to afford health care. Fortunately, people who get insurance through the ACA marketplace who earn less than about $51,036 a year (for a family of one—or $104,796 for a family of four), may be eligible for coverage at a discounted price. Young adults are more likely to benefit from these discounts compared to older uninsured adults, so find out if the discount applies to you at

I’m sold! How do I sign up?

If you’ve heard enough and are ready to sign up, go to To enroll you’ll need:

  • Proof of the number of members in your household (proof of addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers should do the trick)
  • Contact information and social security numbers of household members looking to enroll in coverage
  • Your tax household’s annual salary (for more details on how to estimate this, visit’s expected income page)
  • Policy numbers for any current health plan

You can also use this handy checklist from to make sure you have every document you need before enrolling. If you need help enrolling, local application assistors are available. Find an appointment with one near you with the Get Covered Connector Tool.

Keep in mind that the following 18 states have their own marketplace websites:

  1. California
  2. Colorado
  3. Connecticut
  4. DC
  5. Idaho
  6. Kentucky
  7. Maine
  8. Maryland
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Minnesota
  11. Nevada
  12. New Jersey
  13. New Mexico
  14. New York
  15. Pennsylvania
  16. Rhode Island
  17. Vermont
  18. Washington

Getting covered now will safeguard you from medical debt if something unexpected happens, and you’ll be able to take advantage of benefits like free preventive care.

Log on to, see what discounts you’re eligible for, shop and compare prices, and choose a plan that fits your budget and your needs. Your health and your wallet will thank you.

This article was written by Adriana Scott, Engagement & Storybank Coordinator for Young Invincibles, a Millennial research and advocacy organization focused on expanding economic opportunity for young adults. To learn more visit and follow them on Twitter @YoungInvincible.

Want to learn more?

Select one of the related topics to find more.