Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31, 2017, for people purchasing individual health insurance for 2017. This open enrollment period applies to anyone who wants to buy a policy from a state or federal health exchange, or directly from an insurer. You also can buy a plan through a health insurance agent.

Importantly, these three months are the only time of the year that you can buy a health plan if you don’t get one through work. If you miss this health insurance open enrollment period, you won’t be able to buy a policy unless you have a “qualifying life event” — such as a marriage or childbirth.

Under the Affordable Care Act, almost all Americans must buy health insurance or face a penalty.

Start thinking now about your health plan purchase so that you’ll have the time to choose wisely, with the help of this information.

Lacie Glover is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: lacie@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @LacieWrites.

The article Nov. 1 Means It’s Time for Health Insurance Open Enrollment originally appeared on NerdWallet.