PROVIDENCE, RI – After helping to secure approximately $150 million in emergency Medicaid funding for Rhode Island in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law No. 116-127), U.S. Senator Jack Reed is urging the Trump Administration to reopen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment window to prevent critical funds for hospitals and health workers from being diverted to other programs.

Additionally, $100 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law No. 116-136) funding was included for hospitals and health centers nationwide to keep them up and running in the midst of the pandemic.  This includes funds to cover novel coronavirus (COVID-19) expenses such as staff and equipment and offers critical assistance to community health centers and nursing homes too.  The funds are designed to purchase new personal and protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers, increase testing supplies, boost health workforce and training, build new facilities to house patients and new emergency operation centers, and more.

Those federal funds should begin to flow to Rhode Island and other states soon.  But even with this additional federal funding, the financial strain on hospitals is growing as they lose other revenue streams.  Senator Reed believes more must be done for health care workers and hospitals. 

Reed says an influx of CARES Act funds is urgently needed, but now President Trump is threatening to divert billions of dollars in this funding away from hospitals.  After initially indicating that the White House was considering reopening the ACA enrollment window, the Trump Administration reversed course.  Rather than temporarily relaunching the website and allowing millions of uninsured Americans to purchase an affordable Obamacare plan, the Trump Administration now plans to take money away from hospitals to set up a costly, untested, unwieldly system to extend Medicare payments for those who are uninsured and need treatment for COVID-19.

“President Trump’s fear of using Obamacare is a real disservice to the American people and struggling hospitals.  Not only is he preventing people without health coverage from accessing affordable care in the midst of a pandemic, but his plan would drain billions of dollars from hospitals and erect all kinds of new red tape.  People are desperate, hospitals are drowning, and the President’s proposal amounts to throwing them an anchor and asking them to fill out a form,” said Senator Reed.  “In addition to robbing Peter to pay Paul, this plan is so flawed that even if all $100 billion went directly to paying for uninsured people’s COVID-19 related hospital bills it still leaves them out to dry if they get sick, break a bone, or need a long-term hospital stay.  I urge the President to reverse course and do the moral and economically responsible thing: reopen the ACA enrollment window.” 

On March 12, Senator Reed led a letter with 25 Senators 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 federal exchange and relaunch so more Americans could sign up.

Reed noted that Rhode Island is fortunate to be one of about a dozen states that host their own exchanges.  He praised Governor Raimondo for reopening HealthSource RI, as well as other governors who already reopened their state health insurance exchange windows to help ensure more people can purchase comprehensive coverage in their time of need.  But Americans in 39 other states need the Trump Administration to step up and do the same thing.

Senator Reed says that bolstering public health is an economic imperative. 

Medicaid, is a joint federal-state public health insurance program for people with limited income, which covers about 290,000 Rhode Islanders, including many seniors and children. 

Reed noted that the $150 million in additional Medicaid funding he helped include for Rhode Island in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will be distributed to the state through reimbursement payments in the coming months.  Reed backed a provision enhancing federal Medicaid matching rate (FMAP) funds, which boosts the share the federal government pays by 6.2 percent, which equates to about $150 million.

While that money is absolutely critical, Senator Reed wants the Trump Administration to start surging CARES Act funding to hospitals now.

“Hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders depend on Medicaid.  The Families First bill provided an important boost of federal Medicaid dollars for the state to provide a measure of stability and help Rhode Islanders access essential health care,” noted Reed.  “But it is still not enough to deal with the scope of this pandemic.  More federal help is warranted.  It is imperative that the Trump Administration start getting the CARES Act funds out to hospitals, communities, and states and that Congress do more to address immediate public health needs and support the economy.  I implore the President: Don’t shortchange hospitals and public health by diverting critical dollars away from where they are needed most.  Do the right thing and start distributing health funds where they are most urgently needed.”