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2021 Special Enrollment Period: An Early Look At Success

May 17, 2021 Sarah Cavill

This year, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, a 2021 Marketplace health insurance Special Enrollment Period (SEP) was initiated by the Biden administration. The SEP runs through August 15, 2021, allowing consumers to “enroll in or change Marketplace health insurance plans.” Early enrollment numbers indicate that enrollment is significantly up from 2020 and 2019, when “SEPs were available only for qualifying life events.”

2021 Marketplace Special Enrollments Increase In 2021 

Shutterstock_784148026 Health insurance form with stethoscope in top view

A fact sheet from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that 940,000 consumers signed up for health insurance through during the reporting period (February 15-April 30). This number represents “new plan selections,” or consumers who didn’t have plans as of February 14 and were successfully enrolled during the current reporting period.

The CMS also reported 1,738,781 “new consumers requesting coverage on an application submitted on or after February 15.” These consumers do not yet have active Marketplace plans and are waiting for their eligibility to be determined. Of those awaiting eligibility confirmation, 1,477,254 are Marketplace eligible. The remaining 256,813 are believed to be “eligible for enrollment in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”

According to the CMS, In 2020 and 2019, 391,000 and 266,000 consumers signed up for Marketplace coverage during the February 15 to April 30 time period. The significant increase in enrollment volume in 2021 is assumed to be due to the broadening of eligibility during the SEP. “In previous years, SEPs were available primarily only for qualifying life events, whereas this year the Biden-Harris Administration opened a SEP to all Americans in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”

A More Diverse Range Of Consumers Have Chosen To Sign Up For Insurance During The Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

In addition to more enrollments this year, those enrolling represented a more diverse group than in prior years. The CMS found that “Of enrollees who identified a race from February 15 through March 31, 17% identified as Black, compared to about 11% during the same period in both 2020 and 2019. In addition, lower income Americans represent a larger percentage of new plan selections so far during the SEP compared to prior years.” The American Rescue Plan, signed on March 11, increased eligibility for advance payments of premium tax credits (APTC) to more consumers, lowering monthly premiums, which may be a reason for the increase in enrollments across incomes. 

Consumers Are Enrolling (And Browsing) During The Special Enrollment Period Online And Via Call Centers

Of those that are buying and browsing during the SEP, most are going to, with more than 14.6 million unique users viewing or interacting with or from February 15 to April 30. During that same period, more than 2.4 million calls were received by the Marketplace call center. The window shopping tool on, which allows consumers to compare and consider insurance plans without creating an account, saw more than 700,000 unique users during the reporting period. 

Are You Looking To Scale Health Insurance Inquiry Volume in 2021?

You need DMS InsuranceTM on your team. DMS Insurance represents a comprehensive suite of products that deliver high-intent consumers to our nation’s largest insurers. Supporting the digital performance advertising needs of health, home, auto and home insurance providers, DMS helps the insurance industry scale customer acquisition efforts and write more policies while providing unprecedented process and performance transparency. Our proprietary insurtech provides granular insight into the insurance consumer, resulting in optimized performance with granular filters for precise media buying control. 

Click here to learn more about DMS Insurance.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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