HHS Announces Marketplace Special Enrollment Period for COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

insuranceImage by Gerd Altmann
2021 SEP provides access to health coverage during the pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In accordance with the Executive Order recently issued today by President Biden, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families for Marketplace coverage in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which has left millions of Americans facing uncertainty and exceptional circumstances while millions of Americans have experienced new health problems during the pandemic.

The agency states that This SEP will allow individuals and families in states with Marketplaces served by the HealthCare.gov platform to enroll in 2021 health insurance coverage. Beginning February 15, 2021, and through May 15, 2021, these Marketplaces will operationalize functionality to make this SEP available to all Marketplace-eligible consumers who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application. State-based Marketplaces (SBMs) operating their own platform have the opportunity to take similar action within their states.

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“The Department is committed to ensuring that we deploy every available resource during the Public Health Emergency. This Special Enrollment Period will ensure that more individuals and families have access to quality, affordable health coverage during this unprecedented time,” said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran.

The SEP will be offered to consumers applying for new coverage or updating an existing application through HealthCare.gov, the Marketplace call center, or through direct enrollment channels. Coverage is prospective, with coverage beginning the first day of the month following the date of plan selection.

To promote the SEP and ensure that a broad and diverse range of consumers are aware of this option, CMS will utilize a variety of tools including a paid advertising campaign and direct outreach to consumers, in cooperation with community and stakeholder organizations in English, Spanish, and other languages. Some consumers may already be eligible for other existing SEPs, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – they can visit HealthCare.gov now to find out if they can enroll in the meantime.

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Starting February 15, consumers seeking to take advantage of the new SEP can find out if they are eligible by visiting HealthCare.gov. Consumers can find local help at Localhelp.healthcare.gov or by calling the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Assistance is available in 150 languages. The call is free.

For more information on this announcement, visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2021-special-enrollment-period-response-covid-19-emergency.

For more information about the Health Insurance Marketplace®, visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/quick-guide/getting-marketplace-health-insurance/.

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