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When is Open Enrollment, and is it the Same for All Companies?

When is Open Enrollment, and is it the Same for All Companies?

Among the top priorities for HR teams is open enrollment. While often the second or third most expensive budget item for organizations, benefits also act as a major driver for recruitment and retention. With open enrollment season arriving for many employers, consider this your quick refresher on benefits administration and when the period takes place.


Refresher: What is Open Enrollment?

Open Enrollment is the timeframe when employees are permitted to update their elections to employer-sponsored benefits. 

Aside from qualifying events, this period is the only time in which workers are permitted to adjust or update important benefits like healthcare coverage and voluntary life insurance.


When Does Open Enrollment Take Place?

Open enrollment takes place once per year, and most employers conduct the process two to four weeks before the effective date of new benefits. However, the actual timeframe is set by employers and differs from one to the next

With this in mind, the open enrollment period for ACA-compliant healthcare coverage is administered by one of the following formats:

  1. Federal-Facilitated Marketplace (FFM): People living in these states purchase health insurance through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 
  2. State-Based Marketplace (SBM): States facilitate all marketplace functions, including setting open enrollment periods. 
  3. State-Based Marketplace-Federal Platform (SBM-FP): States facilitate all marketplace functions except for eligibility and enrollment, which is administered by HHS.

The marketplace elections period typically begins in November and concludes in mid-December, though some states offer more flexibility with extended deadlines. Full details can be found at

Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C) and Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) also operate on an open enrollment model. There are two separate enrollment periods, both of which can be found at


What Else Do HR Administrators Need to Know About Open Enrollment?

Traditionally, open enrollment is inefficient. Employees are asked to fill out a nearly endless stream of forms, often by hand. Not to mention that back-and-forth between benefits brokers, HR teams, and insurance companies. 

However, adopting a digital HRIS solution like BerniePortal can streamline these inefficiencies. With all-in-one capabilities, HR professionals can focus less on paperwork and more on strategy—which benefits both your team and your career.

BernieU Course The Ultimate Guide to Benefits Administration and Open Enrollment

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