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Health insurance can be a complicated subject. If you have questions, you’re not alone. Many of us need a bit of help sorting through all the details.

This time of year, we start to hear a lot about “open enrollment.” But what, exactly, does that mean? And how does it affect people who secure their own health insurance? Is open enrollment different for individuals with Medicare? When does it start?

We’ve got answers to those questions and more. Browse the Q&A below to find all the basics about open enrollment.

Q:    What is open enrollment?
A:    Open enrollment refers to the period of time when people can sign up for, renew or change health insurance policies for the upcoming year. If you don’t have health insurance provided through an employer, Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), it’s up to you to secure your own. During open enrollment season, you can sign up for individual or family coverage through Covered California™, the state insurance marketplace, or directly with any company that offers coverage where you live. You also can work with an insurance broker. There are different policy types and insurance providers available to accommodate a variety of needs and budgets.

Q:    When is open enrollment this year for people who are on Medicare?
A:    If you want to sign up for or renew Medicare coverage, open enrollment begins on October 15, 2017 and lasts until December 7, 2017. Visit for details and enrollment instructions. Brown & Toland has a helpful overview on Medicare options.

Q:    How can I find out what my plan choices are for 2018?
A:    You should check in with your HR Benefits at your company to see all the options available to you. If you’re Medicare eligible you can check out the options available where you live here.

Q.    What do I do if I want a Brown & Toland physician?
A.    Choose a health plan that comes with a network that includes your Brown & Toland physician. Simply look for your doctor’s name in the insurance company’s list of in-network physicians (or “participating providers”). See more about choosing Brown & Toland here.