In general, open enrollment refers to a period of time when you may make changes to your employee benefit plan elections and/or add or delete dependents from your coverages.
Annual Open Enrollment
Open Enrollment is your annual opportunity to enroll in or make changes to your benefits without a qualified life event. If you or your dependents do not enroll when you first become eligible, you will only be able to enter the plan during Open Enrollment.
Each employer will set a specific Open Enrollment period. This is typically 1-3 months in advance of the date when new elections, plans, and costs will become effective. You will usually receive materials about benefits plan changes, enrollment opportunities, and contribution costs prior to the Open Enrollment period. Employers may select both the time of Open Enrollment and the timing of the Open Enrollment period. The Annual Open Enrollment period is generally about two weeks long. The end of the Annual Open Enrollment window is usually the deadline by which all changes must be made. Be aware, most employers treat this as a hard deadline.
Special Enrollment Period
You may only enroll or make election changes mid-year if you experience a qualified life event such as marriage, birth or adoption of a new child, divorce, or an involuntary loss of coverage from another group plan.
You must notify your HR or benefits department and submit the request for changes in writing or through an electronic portal within 30 days of the life event. If you miss this 30-day window, you will need to wait until the annual Open Enrollment period to add any new dependents.