**25 U.S. Senators send letter noting that expanding access to health insurance makes public health safer for all and can help people from getting hit with huge bills**
(Washington, DC) – In light of the ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and in an effort to ensure more Americans have access to affordable health care, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter with 23 of their colleagues to urge the Trump Administration to re-open the enrollment period to allow people without health insurance to purchase an Obamacare plan through the health insurance marketplaces.
Currently, about 27.5 million Americans lack health insurance of any kind, and even more are underinsured or have so-called “junk” plans, which could still leave them facing expensive medical bills if hospitalized for treatment for COVID-19 or other health issues. Allowing people to purchase a plan now through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could help individuals while improving public health and making things safer for entire communities.
“We are deeply concerned that individuals and families will be forced to choose between getting tested and seeking care for COVID-19 to protect themselves, their families, and communities from further spread and being left with thousands of dollars in bills that they are unable to pay. In addition, when the uninsured or underinsured are unable to pay their medical bills, it is health care providers who are left to make up the shortfall. Health care providers are already relying on emergency resources to pay for increased capacity and medical supplies in order to be prepared for further spread of COVID-19,” the Senators wrote.
The Senators continued, “As such, and given the ongoing unprecedented public health crisis, we ask that HHS and CMS work to establish special enrollment periods for anyone seeking individual or family coverage through the health exchanges. Having comprehensive, affordable coverage is essential to ensure the health and well-being of the American people, particularly given the lack of access to testing for the COVID-19 and the uncertain trajectory of the outbreak. It is imperative for patients to receive covered care, regardless of whether they test positive or negative for the virus. Patients should not feel the need to avoid care out of fear of incurring medical bills they cannot afford.”
This past year, 8.3 million people purchased or re-enrolled in Obamacare health plans using the HealthCare.gov platform during the 2020 open enrollment period, which the Trump Administration closed on December 15, 2019.
The Senators are asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to re-open the window and establish special enrollment periods for anyone seeking individual or family coverage through the health exchanges: “Having comprehensive, affordable coverage is essential to ensure the health and well-being of the American people, particularly given the lack of access to testing for the COVID-19 and the uncertain trajectory of the outbreak. It is imperative for patients to receive covered care, regardless of whether they test positive or negative for the virus. Patients should not feel the need to avoid care out of fear of incurring medical bills they cannot afford,” the Senators wrote.
Text of the letter can be found here.
Shaheen and Hassan have been sounding the alarm on the need for additional federal funding and access to public information in preparation for the spread of the Coronavirus. This week, Shaheen and Hassan urged Trump administration officials to provide necessary support to students and workers impacted by the Coronavirus. Shaheen and Hassan supported bipartisan government funding legislation to help states’ response efforts, which was recently signed into law. Also earlier this week, the CDC disbursed the $4.9 million in funds for New Hampshire included in that funding package. Further, Shaheen joined a group of 25 Senators earlier this month, calling on the National Security Council (NSC) to address and coordinate administration efforts in response to the Coronavirus and other global health security threats.