Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) has been pushing to make health insurance available to more Americans during the pandemic by reopening the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, which normally has an open enrollment period in November and the first half of December.
When the ACA was passed it included a provision that allowed for special enrollment periods, and Baldwin has been critical of the Trump administration for not opening one now and keeping it open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Donald Trump has been pushing to have the ACA declared unconstitutional, but reportedly may consider such a move in these dire circumstances. Of the 13 states that run their own marketplaces, 12 of them have opened a special enrollment period.
So on Tuesday, Baldwin and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, cosigned by 25 other senators, saying a special enrollment opportunity would allow uninsured and under-insured Americans to get coverage to protect themselves from COVID-19 related illness.
“Currently, millions of Americans are uninsured and anxious, not only about what the possibility of contracting COVID-19 could mean for their health and that of their family, but also for their financial stability,” Baldwin and her fellow senators wrote.
“Opening up the ACA marketplace would provide an easy pathway to coverage for those who under previous circumstances may have decided to forego health insurance or purchase a substandard, junk insurance plan, but now in a global pandemic are in vital need of comprehensive coverage to protect themselves, their families and our broader community.”
Pointing out that there have been “millions of job losses in recent weeks and the likelihood of millions more in the near future,” Baldwin added it would give “at least a modicum of reassurance during these deeply troubling times.”
Some employees who have lost their insurance because of a job loss can apply due to the change in their life circumstances, but not all are eligible, nor are all likely aware of, the possibility of life-changes triggering enrollment in the ACA. The senators say that an additional benefit of opening a special enrollment period is that it would “publicize to all Americans who have lost their jobs that the exchanges are open again and that they can enroll in high-quality health insurance, providing at least a modicum of reassurance during these deeply troubling times.”
The letter to Azar concluded, “We urge you to put aside the partisan politics of the past, and to expand health coverage to millions of Americans by opening a [special enrollment period] expeditiously.”