Senate Democrats to White House: Reopen ACA Marketplace, Allow Seniors to Access Medicare During Pandemic
Aug 07 2020
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and two dozen colleagues in calling on President Trump to reopen the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace to allow more people to enroll in health insurance and access federal subsidies, and to take steps to ensure seniors can enroll in Medicare coverage as they disproportionately face potential health issues related to COVID-19.
In the letter, the senators requested Trump authorize an ACA Special Enrollment Period to allow those who did not sign up for insurance during the regular enrollment period a window to obtain comprehensive health insurance. The House-passed HEROES Act includes opening a special enrollment period, which the signers support.
The senators wrote: “More than three months since our original request, and with the benefit of additional data, we write with renewed urgency to request that you authorize an SEP for the ACA and to ensure guaranteed access to Medicare coverage for seniors and retirees.”
“Given everything we know about COVID-19 and how it has devastated our seniors, it is essential that all older Americans can secure access to health coverage—without gaps or delay. We urge your Administration to take immediate steps, through equitable relief or other mechanisms available to you, to ensure seniors can enroll in Medicare and access their earned benefits,” the senators continued.
The senators concluded: “We urge that you take seriously the challenges that millions of people are facing in our country and reopen enrollment for the federally-run ACA Marketplace and to utilize the tools you have to ensure access to the Medicare Program.”
In addition to Senators Feinstein and Murphy, the letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).
Full text of the letter follows:
Dear President Trump,
In April, we wrote to request that you open a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) federally-run Marketplace, as it was already clear that the COVID-19 crisis was creating an unprecedented and unforeseen need for health care coverage. We are disappointed that you chose not to do so, blocking millions of uninsured Americans from being able to purchase comprehensive health insurance and further exacerbating the crisis by discouraging them from seeking testing or treatment due to a lack of coverage. Now, more than three months since our original request, and with the benefit of additional data, we write with renewed urgency to request that you authorize an SEP for the ACA and to ensure guaranteed access to Medicare coverage for seniors and retirees.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, an estimated 5.4 million workers have become uninsured because of job losses—the highest ever annual increase. Of the 13 states that operate a state-based marketplace, 12 have announced an SEP, and more than 266,000 people have enrolled in them so far. Additionally, recent surveys indicate that people who lost their jobs in states that rely on HealthCare.gov are more likely to require an SEP to enroll in health coverage, because they were uninsured before losing their jobs. Some estimates suggest that 600,000 people would have signed up for health insurance before the end of June, had your administration authorized an SEP.
It is clear that many people who want insurance are not able to purchase it because you have chosen not to offer an SEP, and many of the millions of Americans who have recently become uninsured due to job losses are unaware that they qualify for federally-subsidized health care coverage. You could dramatically expand the number of Americans with health insurance during this critical time by reopening the ACA exchanges and using the power of your office to make people aware of the availability of affordable coverage. It should not take an act of Congress to get Americans covered through an SEP. However, the HEROES Act, which passed the House in May, includes a provision to establish an ACA SEP; we support that provision.
Additionally, every year there are tens of thousands of recent retirees and seniors in this country, who for one reason or another, fail to enroll in Medicare. These enrollment missteps can lead to lifetime fees, lengthy gaps in coverage and delayed access to needed care. Given everything we know about COVID-19 and how it has devastated our seniors, it is essential that all older Americans can secure access to health coverage—without gaps or delay. We urge your administration to take immediate steps, through equitable relief or other mechanisms available to you, to ensure seniors can enroll in Medicare and access their earned benefits. Further, we support the provisions included in the HEROES Act to establish a Part B Special Enrollment Period (SEP) during the public health emergency.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage communities and has now infected three million Americans. The urgent need for comprehensive, affordable health care coverage has only increased since we wrote to you in April to request that you open an ACA SEP. We urge that you take seriously the challenges that millions of people are facing in our country and reopen enrollment for the federally-run ACA Marketplace and to utilize the tools you have to ensure access to the Medicare Program.