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ACA Opens Special Enrollment Period in Response to COVID-19: What You Need to Know

By Leslie Mckinney | February 15, 2021 | 3 min read | Insurance Education, Simplifying Care, Tools and Services

If you missed open enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance, you now have another opportunity to sign up. 

On January 28, President Biden issued an Executive Order on strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act: 

“In light of the exceptional circumstances caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider establishing a Special Enrollment Period for uninsured and under-insured Americans to seek coverage through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace.” 

This special enrollment period will run February 15, 2021 through August 15, 2021.Any individual or family interested in purchasing their own health coveragecan enroll during this period. This includes people who are uninsured, under-insured, or wanting to switch to a different Marketplace plan. 

Typically you would only be allowed to sign up for coverage outside of open enrollment if you had a “special” circumstance, like the birth of a child, a marriage or divorce, or the loss of health insurance. But for this special enrollment period, you won’t need to provide any documentation of a qualifying life event. 

In addition to this Special Enrollment Period, President Biden signed The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) law. The new law expands financial assistance for more Americans and lowers premiums for 2021 & 2022 for many already enrolled in a plan.

To help you better understand these recent changes we are answering our members frequently asked questions on the limited special enrollment period (SEP) and the American Rescue Plan Act.

Get started on finding a health plan.

To find a health care plan that meets your needs and to find out if you qualify for a subsidy from the federal government visit

Limited Special Enrollment Period

Where should I go if I need assistance?

Current members can:  

  • Reach out to your authorized Blue Cross NC agent 
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-206-4697 
  • Visit to contact us via secure inbox message or chat 

New members can 

  • Reach out to your authorized Blue Cross NC agent 
  • Visit our website to see plans and prices available to you
  • Speak directly to a sales representative by calling 1-800-324-4973, available Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m 

Current and new members can also get help in-person at one of the Blue Cross NC Centers near Raleigh, Charlotte or Boone. Learn more at  

How long does this Special Enrollment Period last? 

The enrollment period will begin February 15, 2021 and run through August 15, 2021. Customers must apply during this time period.

Am I required to submit documentation showing that I qualify for this limited special enrollment period?

You won’t need to provide any documentation of a qualifying event like the loss of a job or birth of a child, which is typically required.

The American Rescue Plan Act

Who will now qualify for expanded financial assistance?

The new law expands financial assistance for more Americans and lowers premiums for 2021 & 2022 for many already enrolled in plan.

I’m a current Marketplace customer – what do I need to do?

  • The Marketplace will not be automatically updating subsidy amounts.
  • You should update your application by going to to receive new eligibility results.
  • Your new subsidy should take effect within two billing cycles.
  • You can take advantage of the expanded premium tax credits for previous months when filing your 2021 taxes.
  • Applications to receive the expanded premium tax credits can be updated any time throughout the year.

If you would like to change your 2021 plan at the same time, you must do so during the Special Enrollment Period window. You might have access to a plan with lower out of pocket costs for the same price or less than what you are currently paying. 

I’m a current Off Marketplace customer – what do I need to do?

  • Visit our website to see if you are now subsidy eligible.
  • If you are newly eligible, you will need to select a new plan. Keep in mind that if you move to a Marketplace plan, deductible, out of pocket maximum and coinsurance accumulators will start over and a binder payment is required.

Be sure to call Blue Cross NC at 1-888-206-4697 to cancel your Off Marketplace plan. 

I’m currently unemployed – what do I need to do?

The full premium tax credits reductions will be available in early July. Once this change goes into effect, you may have the ability to receive a $0 premium plan. To qualify you must have received or have been approved to receive unemployment compensation for any week beginning during 2021 and must meet other APTC eligibility requirements.

You will need to provide documentation to the IRS of the unemployment compensation when you file your taxes for 2021. This provision is only for the 2021 plan year. Visit our website to view and select a Marketplace plan.