WASHINGTON, DC - As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet, the Trump Administration is declining to throw them a lifeline by reopening enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) federal exchanges. The decision not to reopen HealthCare.gov, which was first reported by Politico, will be a severe blow to Americans in about two-thirds of states that don’t run their own exchanges and instead use the federal exchange to access HealthCare.gov.
In Rhode Island - and many other states that host their own exchanges - Governors reopened state health insurance exchanges last month to help ensure people can purchase comprehensive coverage.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) blasted the Trump Administration’s refusal to relaunch HealthCare.gov, stating: “This is callous, short-sighted, and will harm struggling families and public health overall. This is a national pandemic that will not stop at state borders and we need a national effort to get folks health care coverage. This is a bone headed move that could literally bankrupt families. People without insurance are less likely to get the medical treatment they need and that could further spread the virus. President Trump should stop claiming he’s working on a health care plan and start acting on one. Instead of blocking people from getting affordable health coverage and trying to tear down the law, President Trump should reverse this decision to ensure those who are struggling can still access affordable health care.”
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 HealthCare.gov so more Americans could sign up.
Reopening the ACA enrollment period should not be a tough call: Even the health insurance industry backed a special one-time enrollment reopening and the federal government has opened special enrollment periods in the past during previous natural disasters. Senator Reed says they should do so again during this clear national public health emergency:
“They say that in a pandemic, the response is only as strong as the most vulnerable link in the chain. Well, President Trump’s decision makes everyone more vulnerable,” Reed said.
While costs and treatments vary, a recent report by FAIR Health found that uninsured Americans with COVID-19 could pay an estimated average of $73,300 for a 6-day hospital stay, which is about ten times more than someone with health insurance.
This past year, despite the fact that the Trump Administration shortened the enrollment period and reduced public outreach, 8.3 million people still 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.
Today, nearly 28 million Americans still lack health insurance. And the Trump-backed lawsuit to tear down the entire Affordable Care Act continues to go forward in the midst of the pandemic.