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Gov. Murphy, Sen. Menendez Look to Reopen Obamacare Enrollment for Covid-19 Testing

Federal and state officials want President Donald Trump to reopen an enrollment period to allow people without health insurance to purchase an Obamacare plan through the health insurance marketplaces.

Gov. Phil Murphy formally requested the federal government open a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) in New Jersey to allow uninsured and underinsured residents to enroll in health coverage through the federal health insurance exchange.

Specifically, Murphy wants the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to authorize a SEP as the state transitions from the Federal platform to a state-based exchange to allow individuals to access affordable health insurance options through the Federal platform.

‘More Can Be Done’

“With COVID-19 now a pandemic and confirmed cases increasing in New Jersey and across the country, it is imperative that we take all appropriate actions to increase access to screening, testing, and treatment related to COVID-19,” Murphy wrote. “While I have coordinated across state agencies to take emergency action to facilitate access to screening, testing and access to care for the residents of New Jersey, more can be done to ensure every individual has access to appropriate health care during this crisis.” 

Several states operating a state-based exchange have already established a SEP in response to COVID-19. However, federal action is required for the establishment of an SEP in states that operate on the federal platform, 

“Clearly, we do not want residents to be apprehensive about seeking treatment because they are not insured or concerned about medical bills. We are asking the federal government to establish a special enrollment period for our residents, and for that coverage to be in place as soon as possible” said Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. 

Sixty Day Period

The governor is calling for a SEP of at least 60 days for all eligible uninsured and underinsured persons to purchase health coverage and for that coverage to be in place as soon as possible.

“With no vaccine in place and a high degree of uncertainty about the direction that the virus will take, increasing access to health coverage will play a role in managing this outbreak” added Murphy. “Similar to actions CMS has taken in the past during major weather events such as hurricanes, creating a SEP is a responsible action that will benefit individuals, as well as contribute to the management of this public health crisis.”

Menendez Pushes

In Washington, Sen. Bob Menendez was one of 25 senators pushing for a SEP to allow people to purchase a plan now through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help individuals while improving public health and making things safer for entire communities.

The senators, in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, expressed deep concerns that individuals and families may bypass getting tested and seeking care for COVID-19 to protect themselves and communities because of financial considerations .

“It is imperative for patients to receive covered care, regardless of whether they test positive or negative for the virus. Patients should not feel the need to avoid care out of fear of incurring medical bills they cannot afford,” the letter stated.

In 2019, 8.3 million people purchased or re-enrolled in Obamacare health plans using the platform during the 2020 open enrollment period, which the Trump Administration closed on Dec.15, 2019.

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