The New Special Enrollment Period due to COVID-19: Everything you Need to Know
The Biden-Harris administration has recently announced a new Special Enrollment Period (SEP) where all eligible residents can sign up for health coverage from February 15 to August 15—and they don’t need a Qualifying Life Event to do so. We’ll explain the details and how to sign up.
How does this new Special Enrollment Period work?
Usually, consumers can apply for a plan at two times of the year:
- During the annual Open Enrollment Period, generally 11/1-12/15
- During the Special Enrollment Period, 12/16 – 10/31, where consumers typically need a Qualifying Life Event such as losing their employer coverage, having a child, or moving in order to enroll in a Marketplace plan.
During this new Special Enrollment Period, anyone can enroll in a Marketplace health plan (aka an Obamacare plan or Affordable Care Act plan), without a Qualifying Life event. If you missed the last Open Enrollment Period, you now have a second chance to get coverage.
Consumers will not need to provide any documentation (e.g., loss of a coverage through a job, birth of a child, etc.), which is typically required for eligibility outside of the annual Open Enrollment Period.
When is the Special Enrollment Period?
In the 36 states that use the Federal Marketplace, it runs from February 15, 2021 – August 15, 2021.
The states that operate their own exchanges will have separate enrollment dates. Here are the states who have announced enrollment dates so far:
- California: February 1st to August 15th
- Colorado: February 8th to August 15th
- Connecticut: February 15 to August 15th
- District of Columbia (DC): February 15th on indefinitely
- Idaho: March 1st to March 31st
- Maryland: Now through August 15th
- Massachusetts: Now through July 23rd
- Minnesota: February 16th through July 16th
- Nevada: February 15 to August 15th
- New Jersey: Now through November 30th
- New York: Now through December 31st
- Pennsylvania: February 15th through August 15th
- Rhode Island: Now through August 15th
- Vermont: February 16th to October 1st
- Washington: February 15th to August 15th
**Several states are only allowing uninsured people to enroll without a qualifying life change: Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington DC. In these states, you won’t be able to switch plans if you’re already enrolled. In other states, you can switch plans as well.
How do I enroll?
Why is this Special Enrollment Period happening?
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) determined that the COVID-19 emergency presents exceptional circumstances for consumers in accessing health insurance. Because of this emergency, they’re providing a Special Enrollment Period for individuals and families to apply and enroll in the coverage they need.