The Trump administration has decided not to reopen enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchanges amid the rising coronavirus pandemic, a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.
Pressure had been building on the White House to launch a special enrollment period to allow the uninsured to purchase Obamacare policies. The decision came the same day that President Donald Trump warned of a painful two-week stretch ahead as infections continue to spread.
Democratic lawmakers asked administration officials to temporarily reopen the exchanges several weeks ago. Also, two leading health insurance industry groups wrote congressional leaders in mid-March asking for such a move.
“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, referring to the disease caused by coronavirus.
The administration’s decision was first reported by Politico.
Eleven states that run their own Obamacare exchanges, along with the District of Columbia, have launched temporary special enrollment periods so their uninsured residents can obtain coverage outside the usual time frame.
Open enrollment typically runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 in the 38 states that use the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.
Nearly 28 million non-elderly Americans were uninsured in 2018, according to the most recent Census Bureau data available. The lack of coverage has been a key weak point in the nation’s fight to stem the outbreak. Americans who are uninsured may hesitate to get checked if they feel ill, which could lead to their infecting others, experts say.
More than 188,000 people had tested positive in the US and roughly 3,900 had died as of Tuesday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University. Thousands more have gone to emergency rooms or been hospitalized, potentially racking up hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical bills.
The newly unemployed who lose their employer-based coverage are allowed to sign up for Obamacare policies within 60 days of becoming uninsured.