What is Special Enrollment Period?

Discover the Special Enrollment Period (SEP), a key option for updating health insurance due to major life events. Learn how to navigate this process with this article.

FirstQuote Health Staff
Published on
Last Updated on
November 22, 2023
health insurance


In today's fast-moving world, having health insurance is really important. But life can be full of surprises, and sometimes, we need to get or change our health insurance outside the regular open enrollment period, which runs from November through January in most states. This is where the Special Enrollment Period (SEP) comes in. It's a special time that lets you sign up for health insurance when something big happens in your life. 

What Is A Special Enrollment Period (SEP)?

A special enrollment period is a time when you can get or change your health insurance plan. Normally, you can only do this during the open enrollment period. But if something major happens in your life, like getting married or losing your job, you may qualify for special enrollment period health insurance.

What Qualifies You For A  Special Enrollment Period?

To qualify for special enrollment period health insurance, you have to meet certain requirements. These requirements are there to make sure that only people who really need it can enroll for health coverage. Here are some of the important rules:

Having a Big Life Change

The most important rule is having a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). A QLE is something major in your life that makes you need health insurance. Different QLEs have different rules and deadlines, so you need to act fast when one happens. Some examples are: 

  • Getting Married: When you get married, you can use an SEP to add your spouse to your health insurance or find a new plan together.
  • Getting Divorced: If your marriage ends in divorce, you can use an SEP to change your health insurance.
  • Having a Baby or Adopting: When you have a baby or adopt a child, you can use an SEP to get health insurance to cover your new family member.
  • Moving Residence - if you are moving to a new zip code, you can change your health coverage.

Losing Your Work Insurance

If you lose the health insurance you had through your job, you can usually qualify for a special enrollment period to find new coverage. This could happen if you lose your job, have your hours reduced, or if your employer stops offering health insurance.

Turning 26

When you turn 26, you can't stay on your parents' insurance anymore. This is a big deal, and it means you can use a  special enrollment period to get your own health insurance.

Qualifying for Medicaid or CHIP 

If your income or family size changes, and you become eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), you can use an SEP to get health insurance.

Becoming a U.S. Citizen 

After becoming a citizen, you have 60 days to sign up for health insurance through the exchange. This special enrollment period only applies if you didn't have lawful immigration status before becoming a citizen.

How to Get Health Insurance Outside of Regular Enrollment

If you're eligible, here's how you can get special enrollment period health insurance:

1. Check If You're Eligible 

First, make sure you qualify for the special enrollment period based on your qualifying life event. You can find this information on your state's health insurance website or, which is the federal website.

2. Get the Right Documents

Depending on your life event, you might need to show some documents to prove it. For example, if you got married, you'd need your marriage certificate. If you lost your old coverage, you'd need paperwork showing that.

3. Visit the Health Insurance Website

Go to your state's health insurance website or These websites are there to help you sign up for health insurance during the special enrollment period.

4. Look at Different Plans

You have a few options to look for a plan that works for you: 

5. Pick a Plan

Once you find a plan that works for you, you can choose it on the website. You might also qualify for Medicaid or CHIP if your income is low, so see if those options fit your situation.

In a nutshell, the Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for health insurance is there to help when big changes happen in your life. By understanding the rules for eligibility, the different life events that can trigger an SEP, and the steps to get health insurance outside of the usual sign-up time, you can navigate the health insurance system easily. Health insurance is really important for your well-being and your money, and SEPs make it possible to adjust to life's surprises without any trouble.

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