Menendez, Booker, Pascrell Urge Trump to Quit ACA Attacks in Light of COVID-19 Crisis

Menendez, Booker, Pascrell Urge Trump to Quit ACA Attacks in Light of COVID-19 Crisis

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (N.J.-09) today called on President Trump to reconsider his actions to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in nearly 2,000 positive cases and 20 deaths in New Jersey.

“We write to urge you to reconsider your Administration’s position in Texas v. United States as well as your Administration’s actions to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in light of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter. “During this period of crisis and great uncertainty, we must move beyond partisan attacks on the ACA and instead come together to protect the health care of all Americans.” 

If the Supreme Court rules in the Administration’s favor, millions of Americans covered by Medicaid expansion and ACA marketplace plans could lose their health insurance. Moreover, patients with pre-existing conditions, including patients recovering from COVID-19 could lose their health care coverage or face discrimination from insurers. There are approximately four million New Jerseyans who live with a pre-existing condition. 

The lawmakers also pointed to the Administration’s expansion of “junk plans” that fail to offer sufficient consumer protections and coverage.

“Today, thousands of Americans with COVID-19 are fighting for their lives in intensive care, and millions of Americans are facing severe financial hardship,” the letter continued. “COVID-19 patients covered by junk plans will undoubtedly face devastating hospital bills, and all Americans covered by junk insurance are at increased financial risk in an already tumultuous economy.” 

Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced they are considering a special ACA enrollment window so that uninsured Americans can access insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Along with many of our colleagues, we had previously called on your Administration to take this important step to protect the uninsured during this challenging time,”the letter continued. “We request that you move forward with plans for a special enrollment period, and that you institute a robust Navigator program so that all uninsured individuals, or individuals covered by junk plans who want to switch to a quality plan, are aware of their options and can make informed decisions.” 

Last week, Sen. Menendez urged the Administration to create a special enrollment window to give uninsured individuals a chance to receive health care coverage. Sens. Menendez and Booker also introduced the Care for COVID-19 Act that would also create a special enrollment period to allow individuals impacted by COVID-19 to enroll in a health plan through the health insurance marketplace.

A copy of the letter to the President can be found here and below.

 

Dear President Trump,

We write to urge you to reconsider your Administration’s position in Texas v. United States as well as your Administration’s actions to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in light of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  During this period of crisis and great uncertainty, we must move beyond partisan attacks on the ACA and instead come together to protect the health care of all Americans. 

The ACA overhauled the individual insurance market, enabled states to expand their Medicaid programs to cover more individuals, and allowed millions of previously uninsured Americans to enroll in a quality plan.  Additionally, the ACA created important protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.  

In the lawsuit Texas v. United States, your Administration has taken the position that the zeroing out of the individual mandate penalty in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-97) makes the entire ACA unconstitutional.   The Supreme Court could issue a ruling on this case as soon as October 2020.  If the Court rules in your favor, our entire health care system will be thrust into crisis.  The millions of Americans covered by Medicaid expansion and ACA marketplace plans could lose their health insurance.  Patients with pre-existing conditions, including patients recovering from COVID-19, could lose coverage or face discrimination and impossible rate increases.  During this pandemic and its aftermath, our health system cannot bear more stress and uncertainty. We strongly urge you to reverse your position in Texas v. United States. 

Your Administration has also issued numerous regulations to undermine the ACA and reduce Americans’ access to health care coverage, which has left our nation more vulnerable during this pandemic.  You expanded the availability of short-term and “junk” health insurance plans, which do not offer sufficient consumer protections and coverage.   Your own Administration acknowledged in its rulemaking that people who purchase such plans and then experience a serious illness “could face financial hardship.”   Today, thousands of Americans with COVID-19 are fighting for their lives in intensive care, and millions of Americans are facing severe financial hardship.  COVID-19 patients covered by junk plans will undoubtedly face devastating hospital bills, and all Americans covered by junk insurance are at increased financial risk in an already tumultuous economy. 

In addition to expanding the availability of junk plans, your Administration has greatly decreased funding for advertising and outreach during the annual open enrollment period.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spent $10 million to publicize and market ACA plans for the 2020 enrollment period,  whereas CMS spent $100 million on advertising for the 2017 enrollment period.   These cuts have been especially harmful for underserved and hard-to-reach populations, who now may be most in need of coverage during this difficult time. The uninsured rate has already increased during your time as President. According to the U.S. Census, 27.5 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2018, an increase of 1.9 million since 2017.   We fear that the uninsured rate will continue to climb due to current and ongoing job losses related to COVID-19. 

We are glad that your Administration is considering a special enrollment period for uninsured Americans to enroll in an ACA marketplace plan in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Along with many of our colleagues, we had previously called on your Administration to take this important step to protect the uninsured during this challenging time.   We request that you move forward with plans for a special enrollment period, and that you institute a robust Navigator program so that all uninsured individuals, or individuals covered by junk plans who want to switch to a quality plan, are aware of their options and can make informed decisions. 

During this pandemic and period of economic turmoil, we must focus on using every tool at our disposal to expand and strengthen health care for Americans in need.  Rather than supporting a lawsuit to end states’ Medicaid expansions, your Administration should work with states to bolster their Medicaid programs during COVID-19.  Rather than allowing companies to peddle junk plans, your Administration should ensure all Americans have the opportunity to enroll in comprehensive health care coverage.   

Once again, we strongly urge you to act in the best interest of the American people by immediately ending your efforts to overturn and undermine the ACA.  Thank you for your prompt consideration of this urgent matter. 

Sincerely,

 

 

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