The decision not to reopen the federal health insurance marketplace came down the same day the president announced a forecast of up to 240,000 deaths due to coronavirus.
Despite days of hinting at the possibility, the Trump administration will not reopen enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, a White House official said Tuesday.
Calls from Democratic lawmakers, advocacy groups and the insurance industry to launch a special enrollment period amid the coronavirus pandemic went unheeded. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, ballooning the ranks of the 28 million uninsured.
“At a time when the United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases and our country’s death toll soars with each passing day, the Trump administration has put politics before the lives of the American people,” Dr. Jamila K. Taylor, director of health care reform at The Century Foundation, wrote in a statement. “Reopening the ACA marketplaces for a limited, special enrollment window is the absolute least that President Trump could have done.”
Though the annual enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act passed in December, a special enrollment period for the coronavirus would have extended insurance options for millions of Americans. The 12 Democratic-leaning states that run their own healthcare marketplaces have already opened a special enrollment period, but the federal government controls enrollment for the rest of the states, leaving workers there in limbo.
The administration is “exploring other options,” the unnamed White House official told Politico without elaborating further. The decision came down the same day President Donald Trump announced a forecast of 100,000-240,000 deaths due to coronavirus.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the most powerful insurance lobby, endorsed opening a special enrollment period roughly two weeks ago, and last week Trump said he was considering reopening enrollment. Still, the administration’s continued support of an ongoing lawsuit to repeal the entire law foreshadowed the decision.
The results could be dire. Uninsured workers in 39 states will likely remain that way, leaving them open to exorbitant medical bills if they contract the novel coronavirus and need medical treatment. The alternative, not seeking treatment because they can’t afford it, increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus to more people.
“This isn’t just an outrageous decision, but it’s also a deadly one,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat. “Moments ago, Donald Trump announced we should expect 100-200k deaths in the U.S. For those without health insurance, this is fatal. It’s time to end this senseless war on healthcare.”