When I've explained to people that under the Affordable Care Act there will be ONE annual enrollment period for buying or changing individual health insurance, many think that the rest of the year I'll be sitting with my feet propped up on the desk popping bon-bons.

Uh, no. Even if I were so inclined, that's not gonna happen! I will be busy helping people get health insurance all year round because of a phenomenon known as Life Happens. And when "life happens," it often creates eligibility for what's called a Special Enrollment Period, or SEP.

The official ACA term for Life Happens is "qualifying life events." There are all sort of reasons why people, through no fault of their own, lose their health insurance and qualify for an SEP. (Warning: Non-payment of your health insurance premiums - for whatever reason - does NOT count!)

Here are some examples of qualifying life events that would cause an individual to be eligible for an SEP and would precipitate the need for new health insurance:
  • Loss of employer coverage
  • Loss of dependent status
  • Divorce from or death of policyholder
  • Loss of Medicaid or CHIP
  • Birth or adoption
  • Addition of new dependent as a result of marriage
  • Loss of eligibility for health insurance exchange subsidies
  • Renewal of a pre-ACA plan during 2014
  • Existing policy no longer provides Essential Minimum Coverage
  • Permanent move to a new area that offers different plan options
  • COBRA Expiration
  • Return from active military service
  • Release from Incarceration
  • Coverage directed by Court Order or resulting from Chapter 11 filing
For almost all of these life events, the insured must apply for the new coverage within 60 days. I'm sure there will be lots of fine-tuning to this list so it's in no way intended to be comprehensive.

But I think it does give you an idea of why I will not have a lot of "down" time even after the annual enrollment period ends!