In response to the pandemic and in accordance with President Joe Biden’s executive order, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families to enroll in 2021 health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at

Here are four things to know:

What is an SEP?

An SEP is a time when people can sign up for health insurance coverage outside of their regular Open Enrollment Period (OEP). For individuals and families with federal coverage, OEP occurs annually from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 while for those with employer-based coverage, the annual employer enrollment period may differ.

People must typically make coverage decisions during their OEP. However, several types of life events can create an SEP, enabling someone to buy health insurance outside of their OEP. Qualifying life events include:

  • Losing employer-based coverage
  • Having a baby
  • Getting married
  • And more, according to

How is this SEP different?

The SEP DHHS created in response to the pandemic differs from traditional SEPs because people do not need to have a traditional qualifying life event occur to qualify for this SEP. The pandemic is the event triggering this SEP as part of the COVID-19 response.

Who can get coverage?

Eligible individuals who live in the 36 states that use HealthCare.Gov as their Health Insurance Marketplace platform may apply for coverage or change their existing coverage during this SEP, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) website.

Nebraska is one such state. Other states, including Maryland and Colorado, for example, have their own Marketplace.

For eligibility requirements and definitions, visit HealthCare.Gov.

What does Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) offer?

BCBSNE does not have policies available on the Marketplace. However, BCBSNE offers Armor Health, an individual and family plan that can be purchased anytime throughout the year without a qualifying life event.

Armor Health is a flexible alternative to traditional ACA plans and may be a budget-friendly option for people who aren’t receiving a subsidy on an ACA plan.

To learn more about Armor Health, visit or read Five questions to ask yourself when searching for an individual health plan and Five common individual health plan questions: Answered.

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