The COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period (SEP) Is a Valuable New Opportunity to Get Insurance or Switch Plans – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Extended for 2021

Every year, the Health Insurance Open Enrollment period gives people an opportunity to shop for health insurance or switch plans. For many, Open Enrollment is an annual reminder to check out new rates and coverage options, and switch to a more affordable plan if necessary. Now because of COVID-19, the 2020 health insurance open enrollment period has been extended into 2021.

Health Insurance Open Enrollment 2021

Normally, Open Enrollment is from November 1st to December 15th. Outside of these dates, it’s not possible to buy health insurance unless there are special circumstances.

But in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Health Insurance Open Enrollment has been extended for 2021. This new “Special” enrollment period (SEP) will last from February 15th to August 15th, giving Americans a new opportunity to buy coverage.

Health Insurance Open Enrollment FAQ

Q: Why has Open Enrollment been extended for 2021?

A: The new COVID-19 Health Insurance Special Enrollment Period (SEP) was enacted in response to the exceptional health circumstances facing millions of Americans. As the global pandemic continues, more and more Americans are either uninsured or underinsured.

The new SEP gives people more time to find a plan that they like. It’s also a critical opportunity to switch into a more affordable plan, something that millions of Americans are doing.

Q: I like my current health plan … Do I need to do anything during Open Enrollment?

A: Even if you are happy with your current health insurance, Open Enrollment and Special Enrollment periods are a big opportunity. That’s because the health insurance marketplace changes every year. Some plans get cheaper, and some get more expensive, while coverage options are changing all the time.

A quick chat with your Personal Benefits Manager might confirm that you’re already enrolled in the best plan for you. Or, as is often the case, you might discover a comparable plan with lower rates, which translates to instant cash savings every month.

You can also click here to compare health insurance rates instantly.  

Q: What are the dates for the COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period?

A: The Special Enrollment Period will begin on February 15th, 2021, and last until August 15th, 2021. The SEP is available to all 36 states that are served by the HealthCare.Gov marketplace. Most other states that operate their own marketplace are expected to offer their own SEPs as well.

When will my new plan go into effect?

If you enroll in a new health insurance plan during the SEP, or switch to a different plan, your new plan will go into effect on the first day of the following month. For example, if you select a plan on March 5th, it will go into effect on April 1st.

Q: How do I choose a health insurance plan during Open Enrollment?

During the new SEP, the Health Insurance marketplace will function the same as it does during annual Open Enrollment. That means that it’s up to the consumer to choose the plan that’s right for them.

Here’s how to choose a health insurance plan during open enrollment:

  1. Call your Personal Benefits Manager to compare rates.

Whether you’re shopping for new coverage or need a more affordable plan, your PBM is your #1 resource. With quick, no-cost consultation, they can walk you through the plans that align with your needs, saving you from hours of research.

  1. Choose a Bronze, Silver, or Gold version of the plan

All marketplace health insurance plans are “metal-tiered”. This means that they are available in different versions, each with slightly different premiums, copays, and deductibles.

In general, Bronze plans have the lowest monthly cost, but the highest deductible. Gold plans, on the other hand, cost more per month but have much lower out-of-pocket costs.

  1. Find out if you qualify for the ACA health insurance subsidy

If you are making less than 400% of the federal poverty level, then you probably qualify for the ACA Premium Tax Credit. This is a highly valuable subsidy that makes health insurance plans significantly more affordable.

The income cap for this subsidy varies depending on how many people are in your household. Your PBM can help you determine if you’re eligible.

Compare Pricing on the Best Health Insurance Plans Available

Not qualified for the ACA subsidy? Consider Health Care Cost Sharing

Over the last few years, more Americans have been abandoning health insurance altogether, in favor of something that’s more affordable, more flexible, and available year-round.

Health Care Cost Sharing (or Healthshare) is not health insurance. Healthshare plans allow individuals to share the cost of medical expenses among a larger group of like-minded individuals. This drives down the monthly cost by about 50% compared to unsubsidized insurance.

All Health Sharing organizations are a little bit different. Some are faith based, requiring potential members to sign a statement of faith. Others have no faith requirement, but ask that members sign a commitment to healthy decisions and behavior.

Health sharing plans are no for everyone. Most include waiting periods for pre-existing conditions, and none of them are required to offer preventive care, like health insurance plans are.

Call Your Personal Benefits Manager to Compare Rates

The COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period began on February 15th and will last until August 15th.

If you still need health insurance for 2021, this is the time to do it. Alternatively, if you’re just looking for a way to lower your monthly bills, the SEP could be the opportunity you’re looking for.

Call today to schedule a no-cost consultation, or click here to compare rates.

Here are some additional articles on health insurance open enrollment: The Health Insurance Open Enrollment Period | Open Enrollment and Alternatives to Missed Deadlines | Health Insurance Changes Starting April 1ˢᵗ 2021

Here are some additional pages related to this article: Health Insurance for Small Business 2021:
The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need
| Everything You Need to Know About Group Health Insurance Plans for Small Business [2021 Update]