As the number of COVID-19 cases increase by the thousands each day in New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker expressed his displeasure at President Donald Trump’s decision to not reopen HealthCare.gov so individuals currently without health insurance could sign up for coverage.
“This decision is the height of stupidity, callousness, and irresponsibility,” Booker stated in a press release. “We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and people need healthcare coverage, yet the President is cruelly denying people access.”
Gov. Phil Murphy had 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.
SEP Wanted by Murphy
Specifically, Murphy wanted 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.
The governor had called 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.
“The Affordable Care Act was created for this very purpose—so that individuals without health insurance could get affordable, quality coverage,” stated Booker. “At a time when our healthcare system is already under enormous strain, it makes no sense to willingly allow even more individuals to go without coverage.”
Booker introduced the Care for COVID-19 Act last month in the Senate requiring health insurance plans to cover services related to the virus, like testing and prevention, with no cost-sharing to patients. Those measures were incorporated in the two coronavirus relief packages recently passed by the Senate.
“When Congress returns, it should quickly pass my Care for COVID-19 Act, which would immediately create a special enrollment period so that uninsured individuals can get covered,” said Booker.
Seeking HHS Action
Additionally, Booker’s colleagues in the Senate, including Sen. Bob Menendez, pushed for a SEP to help individuals while improving public health and making things safer for entire communities.
The senators, in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, expressed concerns individuals and families may bypass getting tested and seeking care for COVID-19 to protect themselves and communities because of financial considerations.
In 2019, 8.3 million people purchased or re-enrolled in Obamacare health plans using the HealthCare.gov platform during the 2020 open enrollment period, which the Trump Administration closed on Dec.15, 2019.
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