On January 28, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to open healthcare.gov for a three month special enrollment period (SEP).
Usually, the Open Enrollment Period for new health insurance or changes to a current plan is from November 15-December 15 of every year for the following year’s coverage. In the past, if you needed new coverage or changes made outside of that time frame, you would have to qualify by having a life event such as marriage, divorce, birth, adoption, loss of employer-provided coverage, etc.
This Period for 2021 is from February 15-May 15 to provide an additional opportunity for uninsured and underinsured Americans to enroll in coverage in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coverage would be available as soon as the 1st of the following month. This applies to both subsidized plans (with premium assistance based on income qualifications) in the Marketplace and non-subsidized plans that are considered Off-Marketplace.
According to Florida Blue, here are a few tips if you are in the market for new health insurance or to make changes to what you currently have:
- Starting February 15, consumers seeking to take advantage of this SEP can find out if they are eligible by visiting healthcare.gov or speak with an agent. The application process and plan selection can either be done online or through an agent as well.
- Consumers who are eligible and enroll under this SEP will be able to select a plan with coverage that starts prospectively the first of the month after plan selection. Consumers will have 30 days after they submit their application to choose a plan.
- Current enrollees will be able to change to any available plan in their area without restriction to the same level of coverage as their current plan. In order to use this SEP, current enrollees will need to go through their application and make any changes if needed to their current information and submit their application in order to receive an updated eligibility result that provides the SEP before continuing on to enrollment.
- Consumers won’t need to provide any documentation of a qualifying event (e.g., loss of a job or birth of a child), which is typically required for SEP eligibility.
HHS has published a fact sheet here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/01/28/hhs-announces-marketplace-special-enrollment-period-for-covid-19-public-health-emergency.html providing additional details on implementing the healthcare.gov SEP as well as an CMS fact sheet here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2021-special-enrollment-period-response-covid-19-emergency with more technical details.