A friendly reminder to Minnesotans who buy health insurance on their own instead of getting it through an employer or public program: Key deadlines loom for 2018 coverage.

Open enrollment for individual health plans began Nov. 1 and lasts a month longer in Minnesota than in most states — until Jan. 14, 2018. But days are dwindling for those who want coverage to start Jan. 1. For that to happen, consumers need to purchase plans by Wednesday.

Consumers can still buy in during the remaining 25 days of open enrollment, of course. But coverage would kick in later. Individual health plans can be bought from insurance companies, brokers and through the state’s MNsure online marketplace, which makes it easy to comparison-shop.

But real life needs often don’t fit into open enrollment’s time bookends. Coverage needs can change throughout the year. New members of the family may arrive through marriage, birth or adoption, for example. Other events that also require new or different coverage may occur, such as a job loss or a divorce.

Fortunately, there are additional sign-up options for those who qualify. Special enrollment periods are open to those who have “life events” — such as marriage, births, job losses or divorce — that require new choices.

Generally, the time frame to sign up or make a change lasts 60 days and begins when the life event happens. The list of those who may qualify is long. It includes dependents who age out of their parents’ insurance coverage. A permanent move to Minnesota may also qualify. So can being a victim of domestic abuse or spousal abandonment. For more on eligibility, MNsure offers a useful guide at https://tinyurl.com/y8vevf8s.

Year-round enrollment is also available to members of federally recognized American Indian tribes and to those who qualify for Minnesota’s Medical Assistance program and MinnesotaCare. MNsure is a valuable resource for further details. Consumers can also use the website to check eligibility for public assistance.

Deadlines are looming for the traditional health insurance sign-up period, and it’s best to sign up during this time frame. But there are options available beyond the Jan. 14 end date for those with valid reasons for special assistance. Those who need coverage should know that help may still be available.