Democratic Health Leaders Call on Trump Administration to Help Millions Affected by COVID-19 Access Health Coverage

WASHINGTON – After another staggering and unprecedented spike in claims for unemployment benefits, House and Senate Democratic health leaders reiterated an urgent request for the Trump administration to immediately establish a new Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for millions affected by the ongoing economic and health crisis. The Democratic health leaders also called on the Trump administration to use all administrative tools available to assist the millions affected by the coronavirus pandemic in accessing health insurance coverage, including through expanded awareness of the existing SEP for those who lose their job-based health coverage.

House Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), along with Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia asking them to make it as easy as possible for Americans to access comprehensive care through the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplaces.

“As shown by the historic, unprecedented spike in new claims for unemployment benefits, millions of Americans have already lost their jobs because of COVID-19,” wrote the lawmakers“Tragically, almost 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past 3 weeks and many more claims are expected in the coming months. Since most Americans receive their health insurance through their employer, those losing their coverage along with their jobs need to know their options for obtaining insurance so they can keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe and healthy with access to health care.” 

The lawmakers continued“We reiterate our urgent request that the administration immediately establish a new [SEP] for millions affected by this ongoing economic and health crisis. It is imperative that uninsured and underinsured Americans have access to comprehensive coverage through Healthcare.gov during this crisis and that further steps be taken to assist Americans who could benefit today from existing SEPs.”

The lawmakers concluded“It is incumbent on this administration — alongside local and state governments, as well as the private sector — to streamline the enrollment process and take other measures to increase the awareness of coverage options that can benefit lower- and middle-income Americans.”

The lawmakers also requested answers to the following questions:

  • What actions will the administration take to increase awareness of an SEP to potentially eligible consumers? Please also provide a timeline of these actions.
  • How will the administration reduce the burden on applicants through HealthCare.gov who may need to provide supporting documentation to prove loss of coverage?
  • How will the administration reduce the burden on applicants through HealthCare.gov whose income data on file, such as a previous year’s tax return, may trigger an income inconsistency?
  • Will the administration provide additional protections with respect to tax filing reconciliation for applicants through HealthCare.gov who may struggle to accurately project their annual household income as a result of COVID-19?
  • What steps is the administration taking to inform consumers about the lack of coverage non-ACA compliant plans may provide for COVID-19 and other serious medical conditions?

Full text of the letter is available here


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