On August 7, a group of 26 Senators asked the Trump administration to ease access to health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the letter urges immediate enrollment improvements to Medicare and to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) federally run marketplace. This includes establishing Special Enrollment Periods (SEP) that would help people more quickly connect with their coverage.
Medicare Rights strongly supports the creation of a coronavirus-specific SEP for Premium Part A and Part B, as well as the re-establishment of an SEP for Part C and Part D. These urgently needed enrollment flexibilities should be put in place immediately and remain available for the duration of the emergency period, at a minimum.
We also agree with the need for better access to marketplace plans during the crisis—reforms already underway in many states. As the Senators write, “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.” Troublingly, the lack of an SEP for the federally facilitated marketplace means consumers in the 38 states who rely on Healthcare.gov are being left behind. According to the letter, “some estimates suggest that 600,000 people would have signed up for health insurance before the end of June” had a federal-level SEP been in place. In these unprecedented times, ensuring all Americans can have comprehensive, affordable health insurance is more critical than ever.
Notably, the House-passed HEROES Act would establish SEPs for Medicare and the ACA; we support the inclusion of these provisions in any final COVID-19 relief bill. As those negotiations continue, so do our calls for Congress to advance legislation that recognizes and addresses the needs of older adults, people with disabilities, and their families. We urge you to keep weighing in with your lawmakers! Ask them to champion solutions that protect and strengthen Medicare, as well as the health and economic security of those who rely on its coverage.
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