Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined 20 other attorneys general late last week in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), urging them to reconsider their shortsighted decision to deny a special enrollment period on the official health care marketplace website during the current worldwide pandemic.
In the letter, the attorneys general argue that the federal government should take action to make it possible for Americans across the country – who are facing uncertainty as a result of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – to obtain the health care coverage they need during this critical time.
“At a time when so many Americans are facing uncertainty in every direction they turn, ensuring they have the opportunity to obtain health care coverage via a special enrollment period on healthcare.gov should be a major priority for the federal government,” said Nessel. “Regardless of how this administration feels about the current structure of the Affordable Care Act, it is law and it provides health care services that millions of people need right now across this nation. The federal government should want to ensure all who live in this country have access to the care they need to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
People working on the front lines in grocery stores, food service, transportation and sanitation are suffering the brunt of the pandemic as they often lack health insurance and work jobs that do not provide sick leave. Because they are uninsured, they are less likely to have a regular place to obtain health care and are more likely to delay obtaining care due to fears of the cost. The Trump administration has long touted choice and “informed health care decisions” as the bedrock of its health care policies, but now refuses to give Americans the option of obtaining comprehensive health care coverage to combat this unprecedented health care crisis.
The attorneys general also highlight that a national solution to this problem requires federal action. While some states run their own health insurance exchanges and may independently extend enrollment, 38 states, including Michigan, rely on the health care marketplace to run their exchanges.
While Michigan residents who lose a job or who suffer a change in income might have health care options available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the attorneys general have asked the federal government to make this special enrollment available to all residents under the ACA in light of the current crisis.
The federal government has the legal ability to call for a special enrollment period, and must take decisive action so that residents across this nation can obtain the necessary health care they need during this critical time.
Nessel joins the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington in sending this letter.