Open enrollment is an annual period when you can sign up for or change your health insurance plan or benefit program. During open enrollment, you can:
- Make changes to health plans
- Enroll in or adjust tax-advantaged accounts
- Add or remove dependents
Outside of open enrollment, you can only make changes if you have a qualifying life event. A change in circumstance—like starting a new job, getting married or divorced, having or adopting a baby, or losing health insurance—make you eligible for a special enrollment period.
Active vs Passive Open Enrollment
In an active open enrollment, you must take action during your employer's open enrollment window. You'll actively elect or waive your employer's coverage (for instance, you might waive coverage if you're already covered on a spouse, partner, or parent's health plan).
A passive enrollment typically means your company has not made significant changes, or any changes, to their employer-sponsored health plans and benefits. In this situation, an employer may or may not require that you take action.
If no action is needed, then you'll remain on the health plan and benefits you currently have by default. Your existing benefits will simply "rollover," and you'll only need to take action if you want to make changes.
There's one caveat...
Flexible Spending Accounts are the only exception—FSAs require yearly election and contribution. So, if you want to continue to use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Limited Purpose FSA, or Dependent Care FSA, you must go through the benefits election process during your enrollment window.