Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment

Open Enrollment

Open enrollment happens every year. It begins November 1 and ends January 15. During this time, anyone can apply for health insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder.

Special Enrollment Periods

Some life events let you sign up for a health plan outside of open enrollment. This is called a special enrollment period. Qualifying life events include job loss, birth, adoption, marriage and more. You have 60 days from the event to apply for a special enrollment period.


Examples of Qualifying Life Events

  • Marriage or entering a domestic partnership*
  • Birth
  • Adoption or foster care
  • Receipt of a court order (including child support)
  • Loss of a dependent or dependent status due to death, divorce or legal separation*
  • A change in income* (eligibility change)
  • Loss of other health coverage (because of job loss, divorce, eligibility change, etc.)
  • Moving to Washington or a new county in Washington
  • A change in citizenship or lawful presence status
  • Release from prison
  • Loss of free COBRA coverage

*This is for currently enrolled customers only.

Not all events qualify you for special enrollment. You can sign up for a health plan during the next open enrollment period if this is the case.

Examples of Events that Do Not Qualify

  • Choosing to end another health plan
  • Health plan ending due to unpaid premium
  • Finding out your doctor is not covered through your plan

Apple Health

You can sign up for Apple Health at any time. A special enrollment period is not needed.

You may not qualify for Apple Health. If so, you can still apply for special enrollment.

Other Circumstances that Qualify

These other circumstances may qualify you for special enrollment.

  • Surviving domestic abuse or violence (read more)
  • Spousal and domestic abandonment
  • Errors on the part of Washington Healthplanfinder that prevent you from getting coverage (including system errors)
  • Contract violation by your Qualified Health Plan
  • Other circumstances as approved by Washington Healthplanfinder

Cascade Care Savings Special Enrollment Period

We now offer special enrollment to households that want to sign up for Cascade Care Savings. Your income must be less than 250% of the Federal Poverty Level to get this benefit. If you qualify, you are given this benefit automatically.

You may qualify for this special enrollment period if:

  • You are not enrolled in a Cascade Care Silver or Gold plan
  • You have limited income but do not qualify for Apple Health

Contact us if you do not know if you qualify.

AI/AN Individuals

AI/AN individuals can sign up for a health plan any time of year. You can also change your plan once a month. You must be an enrolled tribal member or a shareholder in an Alaska Native Corporation to get these benefits.

How to Apply for Special Enrollment

It is easy to apply for special enrollment through Washington Healthplanfinder. Follow these steps if you think you qualify.

New Customers

  • Create an account
  • Fill out an application
  • Fill out the Special Enrollment Questionnaire
  • If you qualify, select and confirm your plan

Current Customers

  • Sign into your account
  • Go to your dashboard and choose “Report a change”
  • Fill out the Special Enrollment Questionnaire
  • If you qualify, select and confirm your plan