HR Glossary for HR Professionals

Glossary of the most common HR terms and acronyms to assist professionals navigating the ever-growing and ever-changing world of HR terminology.

Open Enrollment

What is Open Enrollment?

Open Enrollment is the timeframe where an employer’s benefits renew and employees can change their elections.

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.

Why is Open Enrollment Important?

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.

When Does Open Enrollment Take Place?

Elections 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

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