New COVID Special Enrollment Period for February 15- May 15

Joy Miller, RD, LD
Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent
Adult Development and Aging
Family Resource Management
K-State Research and Extension
Southwind Extension District
210 S. National
Fort Scott, KS 66701
Office: 620-223-3720
Fax: 620-223-0332


People have a new chance to enroll in 2021 coverage on between February 15- May 15.


On January 28, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the government agency that runs, determined that the COVID-19 emergency presents exceptional circumstances for people trying to access health insurance. The CMS opened a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for people to enroll in the coverage they need. Here are a few quick tips and facts about this opportunity.


Who can enroll during the new COVID SEP? Any marketplace-eligible person can enroll during this SEP. This includes people who are uninsured, current marketplace enrollees who would like to change plans, and people who are currently enrolled in COBRA and would like to switch to marketplace coverage.


When will coverage start? A person has 30 days to select a plan after they submit their application. Coverage begins on the first day of the month after plan selection. For example, a person who selects a plan on February 28 will have coverage effective on March 1.


How long does someone have to enroll? The SEP lasts from February 15 to May 15, but regular SEPs will still be available after that. People can enroll in Medicaid or CHIP at any time.


What if a person is eligible for COBRA? A person may be eligible for a premium tax credit even if they are eligible for COBRA, but they can’t take both. If a person elected COBRA but changes their mind within the SEP window, they can enroll in marketplace coverage with a premium tax credit and disenroll from COBRA.


Financial subsidies such as ‘premium tax credit’ are available for households with income(s) between 100%-400% of the Federal Poverty Guideline and enrolled in a Marketplace plan. Understanding what counts as income is important for accuracy.


Do stimulus payments count as income? No. These payments do not count as income for Medicaid or premium tax credit eligibility.


Do unemployment benefits count as income? For premium tax credit eligibility, all unemployment benefits (both the state and supplemental federal benefits) count as income. However, for Medicaid and CHIP eligibility, the current $300 per week federal pandemic unemployment compensation is excluded from income, while other unemployment benefits do count.


Other types of income among people who have lost a job include withdrawing money from a retirement plan or IRA and social security benefits.


To learn more about Marketplace health insurance plans, eligibility, how to apply, and who can assist you, register for the Marketplace Health Insurance Webinar presented by me, Joy Miller, a certified Assister with the Marketplace. The Webinar will be offered at 12:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. March 3, April 7, and May 5. Register for free at For more information, call 620-223-3720 or e-mail



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