The Trump administration said Tuesday it would not reopen Obamacare enrollment to allow uninsured Americans to buy health coverage during the coronavirus pandemic. The decision comes after the White House told lawmakers and insurers it was considering a special enrollment period in addition to the usual Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 window for the federally run exchange that covers roughly two-thirds of states. Eleven largely Democratic-leaning states and D.C. have temporarily reopened their health insurance exchanges, CNN reports, in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The type of person that might need additional coverage at the moment would be many of the workers thrust to the front lines of the pandemic response: from cooks to cleaners, delivery people, and grocery store workers.
Democratic lawmakers had called on the White House to open the federally run exchanges for some 30 million Americans who remain uninsured and, after initial hesitation from the health insurance industry over the prospect of being hit with a deluge of coronavirus-related claims, “the main insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, endorsed the special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago while also urging lawmakers to expand premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people,” Politico reports.
“Given the risk posed by Covid-19, it is more important than ever for people to have health coverage,” the CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association wrote in a letter to Congress in mid-March. Insurers told Politico they had expected the Trump White House to announce a special enrollment period last week after receiving private assurances from the administration that the exchanges would be reopened. The coronavirus has already put intense pressure on the job market, and with the economic toll of the pandemic expected to worsen over the coming weeks, millions of newly unemployed workers who previously had insurance through their employer will likely be in need of health insurance options. Workers who lose their health insurance through their employer are eligible to buy a plan on a federal or state exchange for up to 60 days after becoming unemployed.
The Trump administration did not give any reason for refusing to reopen the health insurance marketplace during the pandemic, but President Donald Trump has publicly supported the umpteenth GOP legal effort, this one led by Republican governors, to destroy the Affordable Care Act once and for all. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, which could put the 10-year-old law, and the 20 million Americans who get health coverage from it, in jeopardy.