When Does Obamacare Open Enrollment Start? Here's What You Need To Know

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If you're looking to enroll in health insurance for the year of 2018, you might want to take a moment to understand what's happening at the Healthcare.gov website. Back in April, Donald Trump's administration released a rule that the duration for enrollment for 2018 would be 45 days and added that the website would be down for the majority of Sundays on which enrollment normally takes place. Don't despair, though. Here's how you can enroll in Obamacare despite the recent changes.

In a move that has been criticized by observers, The Department of Health and Human Services will be shutting down Healthcare.gov over the night of the first day of open enrollment, which is Nov. 1. In addition to that, the website exchange will be down on every Sunday except Dec. 10. For those on the West Coast, the website will be down on those specified Sundays from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The HHS cites maintenance as the reason for shutting down the exchange on those Sundays. But Jason Stevenson of The Utah Health Policy Project told Kaiser Health News that the shutdown could affect enrollment procedures and conversion rate. "I could see this really impacting the ability of people to complete an application sign-up in a single sitting, which is so important," Stevenson said.

So, how can you still learn about the best health insurance plan? Pamela Deaton, private agent for HealthMarkets, told Peoria Public Radio that people can find information with the help of private agents. Under the health insurance industry ethics code, private agents are obligated to provide free and honest information about health insurance plans. You can talk to a local health insurance agent by going through the HealthMarkets website. All you need to provide is your zip code.

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It's worth understanding what Healthcare.gov even is. Think of buying a car. When you're looking to buy a new ride, you want to know what the best and most affordable option is for you. This is mostly based on your financial situation. For this, there are websites that offer expertise, compare features of different cars, and show you the kind of deal that won't burn a hole through your wallet. Healthcare.gov works in a similar way but in this case, it's much more immediate because it's about your health.

In 2010, the website was revealed to the American public so that citizens could understand what the best option would be for them in terms of deals in the health insurance market. The website exchange was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act under Barack Obama's administration.

In terms of function, Healthcare.gov is a comprehensive center of information for Americans who may be confused or curious about what plan suits them the best. The website helps people enroll in health insurance by asking several questions about their location and their employment status. Then the website goes through the most optimum option based on the person's provided information and offers different plans. It's confidential and the data taken, with permission of the person using the website, is kept anonymous.

At this moment, people in about 36 American states use Healthcare.gov for enrollment. In 2015 and 2016, a federal report given to the Congress showed that the website exchange remained online 99.9 percent. The longer the exchange was on the grid, the higher the rate was for converting website navigators into applicants. To be precise, the conversion rate was reported to surge from 55 percent to 85 percent.

In spite of citing maintenance as the reason for shutting the exchange down, the HHS has yet to offer an explanation to those criticizing the planned off-time. But past numbers make it difficult to believe these "maintenance" periods won't negatively affect enrollment.