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HHS Announces Special Enrollment Period for Marketplace Health Insurance Due to COVID-19

special enrollment period graphic

There’s good news for the jobless and uninsured struggling in the pandemic. Among the flurry of executive orders President Biden signed last week was one granting the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) the ability to provide a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families to apply and enroll in the coverage they need, given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. The SEP will be available to consumers in the 36 states served by health insurance Marketplaces that use the platform.  To get the word out, CMS  will conduct outreach activities to encourage eligible people to enroll in health coverage.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for Americans to have access to high-quality, affordable health care coverage,” said Tom Van Coverden, President and CEO of NACHC. “Health centers support opportunities and mechanisms to ensure that all Americans have the chance to sign up for health coverage – especially during a public health emergency.”

The effort kicks off February 15th  and continues through May 15, 2021. Marketplaces that use the platform will offer an SEP and will be open to all Marketplace-eligible consumers who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application. Consumers will be able to access the SEP through a variety of channels: through directly, the Marketplace call center, or direct enrollment channels. 

Additionally, consumers can work with a network of over 50,000 agents and brokers who are registered with the Marketplace, along with over 8,000 trained assisters, ready to assist consumers with their application for coverage. In 2019, health centers employed over 4,400 enrollment assisters who provided nearly 5 million assists to individuals seeking affordable health care coverage. CMS plans a host of activities to get the word out and ensure a broad and diverse range of consumers are aware this is happening.  Some consumers may already be eligible for other existing SEPs, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – they can visit now to find out if they can enroll even before the new SEP.

For more information, visit:

For more information about the Health Insurance Marketplace®, visit:

1 Comment

  1. Thank you Amy and NACHC for the nice article. Health centers are in a unique position to assist their patients with the SEP. Would love to see more information from NACHC on how health centers can increase engagement to develop and strengthen enrollment functions to target and enroll their existing patient populations and to promote the SEP.

    Using internal data on Sliding Scale and uninsured patients is one strategy that works.

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