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13 qualifying life events that trigger ACA special enrollment
Outside of open enrollment, a special enrollment period allows you to enroll in an ACA-compliant plan (on or off-exchange) if you experience a qualifying life event.

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I purchased health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in Texas, but I have moved to Colorado. How do I transfer my coverage?

I purchased health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in Texas, but I have moved to Colorado. How do I transfer my coverage?

Q. I purchased health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in Texas. I have now moved to Colorado. How do I transfer my coverage?

A: You’ll be selecting a new Nebraska plan rather than transferring your Texas plan. A permanent move to a new state is a qualifying event, which means you have a special open enrollment window to purchase a new plan in Colorado. There are different plans available from different insurers in each state, so you’ll want to carefully compare all of the available plans in your new location to make sure you select the one that will best meet your needs. Keep in mind that you’ll be starting over with a new deductible and annual out-of-pocket maximum for the remainder of the year, under the new plan in Colorado.

Under a regulation that was implemented in mid-2016, the special enrollment period based on a permanent move to a new area is only available for people who already had minimum essential coverage for at least one of the 60 days before their move. In other words, you can’t use a move to obtain coverage if you weren’t already insured before the move. This rule change was implemented to prevent people from gaming the system by going without coverage and then moving to a new area if and when they find out that they need medical care.

New regulations that were implemented in 2017 also place additional restrictions on the special enrollment period triggered by a permanent move. In previous years, a person eligible for this special enrollment period could pick from among all of the plans available in the new area.

But the regulations now limit the choices to plans at the same metal level that the enrollee had in their prior area. (This assumes their previous minimum essential coverage was purchased in the individual market. Group plans offered by large employers do not conform to the ACA’s metal level designations.)

This rule change is also intended to prevent people from gaming the system: a person with a bronze plan who finds out that he needs extensive medical care cannot move to a new area and enroll in a gold or platinum plan (the option to change metal levels is still available during each annual open enrollment period).

You have 60 days from the date of your move to complete your enrollment. In most states, including all states that use HealthCare.gov as their Marketplace, special enrollment period applications just have to be completed by the last day of the month to have coverage that starts the first of the following month1 (before 2022, the deadline was generally the 15th of the month).

Colorado runs its own Marketplace (Connect for Health Colorado), so you’ll want to check with them to see if they’re still using a 15th-of-the-month deadline for coverage to take effect the first of the following month.2 Note that the federal government has proposed a rule change for 2025 and future years that would require state-run-exchanges to adopt the same last-day-of-the-month deadline that HealthCare.gov uses for special enrollment periods.3


Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.

Footnotes

  1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2021; Notice Requirement for Non-Federal Governmental Plans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. May 2020. 
  2. Special Enrollment Period (SEP) Reference Chart. Connect for Health Colorado. Revised 2020. 
  3. HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2025 Proposed Rule. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. November 2023. 

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