Open enrollment only lasts about two months each year, give or take — it can be longer or shorter, depending on which state you live in. But even six weeks is more than enough time to compare plans, as well as apply and sign up for health insurance. Preparing ahead of time and knowing how to best sign up for health insurance via the health insurance marketplace or with an agent can help you speed things along. Find out everything you need to know to make ACA open enrollment a breeze for you and your family this year.

ACA Open Enrollment- How Long Does It Take to Enroll?

The exact amount of time you take to enroll depends on which process you choose. Typically, you can apply and enroll online, over the phone, or in-person with an agent or at an enrollment assistance center. 

Time It Takes to Apply Online

Applying online is typically the fastest way to go. You don’t have to travel anywhere — or even get dressed — and you don’t have to wait for a human to pick up the phone at a busy call center.

That said, the online marketplace website is often hit pretty hard at the beginning and end of enrollment periods. When the site gets excessive traffic, you may find that it runs slowly or, worse yet, that the application won’t load at all. Sometimes, the site might even start to queue people onto a waiting page, leaving you waiting anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

If you’re worried about this type of holdup when you’re applying for ACA coverage online, consider waiting a week or two after open enrollment begins and trying then. You may be able to dodge the initial rush.

Once you do get on the site (and if it’s not too busy), it typically takes around 30 minutes or less to complete the application. You then have to review insurance plans, which might take a few minutes or a couple of hours, depending on your personal decision-making preferences and whether you want to conduct research or speak to others about the options. Once you decide on a plan, it typically takes only a few minutes more to enroll.

Time It Takes to Apply on the Phone

Phone applications take a little longer because you have to answer all the same questions and then wait for the person on the phone to enter them into the system. You may also find yourself on hold for a while if you call within peak times, so you may want to call at times such as mid-morning or mid-afternoon a few weeks after open enrollment begins.

Time It Takes to Apply in Person

Enrolling at an ACA assistance center is probably the most time-consuming. You must travel there, wait your turn, and then work with a rep to complete the application. If you forgot to bring or don’t have certain necessary information, you might have to go home and repeat the process — or at least email or fax the documentation.

In 2020 and subsequent years, it may also be a good idea to consider COVID-19 and other factors when choosing to apply in person. Call ahead to determine whether centers are open, whether you need an appointment and which precautions you may need to follow. 

Tips for Reducing the Time It Takes to Apply

You can probably see that applying online at an opportune time is one of the best ways to reduce the time it takes to enroll in ACA healthcare coverage during open enrollment. You can also use some of these tips to help reduce the time it takes you to apply.

  • Have all the information you need on hand before you start the process. For many, the most time-consuming part of the application is entering all the data needed to complete it. Before you start, have the following information on hand:
    • Names, dates of birth, addresses, and incomes for everyone you want to include in the coverage and everyone in your household (these may not be the same people)
    • Information about your existing healthcare coverage or options for coverage through your employer
    • A basic understanding of everyone’s overall health, such as whether they smoke and status as a citizen 
  • Have a general idea of your budget. If you know how much you can afford for health insurance every month, that helps you choose the right plan. Create a budget based on what you are currently paying for health insurance and how much you’ve paid in the past. Then, choose plans in line with your budget, which means you’ll be more prepared to make a payment when the time comes. 
  • Be prepared to scan and email or copy and mail documents. You may need to scan and email documents or return copies of documents in the mail in some cases. This might occur if you need to demonstrate that someone is a U.S. citizen or otherwise eligible for ACA coverage or if you need to document a new income level that doesn’t line up with previous tax returns. This is not the case with every application, but being prepared for this possibility reduces the time it takes to deal with it.

Minimizing Final Enrollment Time

Once you apply and choose your insurance plan, you’re not fully enrolled. To lock in your coverage, you typically have to make your first payment. How you do this depends on the plan you choose and your personal preference. You may be given instructions for making a payment online. Alternatively, you can mail in your payment or even call it in over the phone.

Just make sure to get that first payment in by the 1st of the year to ensure your policy goes into effect.

Want to make the entire process even easier on yourself? Consider working with an agent via TrueCoverage. Contact us today to find out how we can help you find the best medical insurance plan for you, as well as provide options for ancillary and other types of coverage.