Herring Urges Trump Administration To Increase Outreach About Healthcare Coverage Assistance During Covid-19
(STL.News) – After urging Virginians who have lost their jobs to evaluate their insurance options to make sure that they remain covered during this unprecedented national health crisis, Attorney General Mark R. Herring has joined a multistate coalition in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging them to immediately develop and implement an outreach plan to inform the millions of Americans who have lost – or may lose – their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage about the Special Enrollment Period available to them through Healthcare.gov. In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues highlight the importance of providing families with the information and tools they need to navigate their healthcare options and access coverage during the unprecedented international healthcare crisis posed by COVID-19.
“We are facing an unprecedented number of Virginians who could be without health care coverage because of COVID-19-related layoffs,” said Attorney General Herring. “The Trump Administration has notoriously pulled back their outreach for ACA Open Enrollment Periods but it is critical that they inform Virginians and Americans of their options during this public health crisis. We need to provide people with an abundance of information and guidance to help them navigate their healthcare options to ensure that they keep themselves and their families covered and healthy.”
In the letter, the attorneys general highlight that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides the flexibility necessary to help people wrestling with the loss of their livelihood and their family’s healthcare coverage during this critical time. The ACA requires the HHS Secretary to provide yearly open enrollment periods on the Exchanges to allow individuals to enroll in new or different healthcare coverage. Outside of this period, individuals may enroll in coverage through the Exchange only if they qualify for a Special Enrollment Period due to certain life events such as loss of employment offering healthcare coverage. Informing individuals of the potential for replacing the coverage they have lost through Healthcare.gov is vital, as most Americans obtain their healthcare coverage through their employer. In 2018, over half of individuals under age 65 had insurance through an employer.
The importance of this outreach will only increase as the economic upheaval of this crisis continues to expand. A new study by the Health Management Associates estimates that the number of people receiving coverage from an employer could decline by up to 35 million due to layoffs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This same study estimates that the economic impact to the labor market could disproportionately impact the roughly 58 million non-elderly individuals who have employer-sponsored coverage and earn less than $50,000 per year. This heavily hit population could greatly benefit from navigating their options on the Exchanges where they may qualify for subsidies to help pay for healthcare coverage.
The coalition expresses concern that, without immediate and widespread outreach, Americans who have recently been laid off will remain unaware of the Special Enrollment Period and thus not access needed healthcare coverage. Evidence shows that marketplace advertising and consumer assistance increases enrollment numbers and stabilizes markets. Yet, over the last few years, the Trump Administration has actively cut marketplace advertising and consumer assistance. HHS, as the operator of Healthcare.gov, must step in to get the word out to consumers in the 38 states that rely on the federal Exchange. HHS should also ensure that outreach materials are translated into the same range of languages as other HHS vital documents in order to ensure meaningful access to information about the Special Enrollment Period.
The attorneys general urge HHS to empower individuals and working families across the country to pursue the best coverage option for them, whether it is Exchange coverage, COBRA, Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. While the federal government’s promise to reimburse for the testing and treatment of COVID-19 for the uninsured is a step in the right direction, it will not help provide these Americans the comprehensive healthcare they so desperately need and could leave many families with large hospital and insurance bills in the long-run.
Yesterday, Attorney General Herring urged Virginians who have lost or could lose their jobs due to the COVD-19 health crisis to evaluate their insurance options to make sure that they remain covered during this unprecedented national health crisis. Earlier this month, Attorney General Herring sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urging them to reconsider their shortsighted decision to deny a special enrollment period on HealthCare.Gov during the current worldwide pandemic. In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the federal government should take action to make it possible for Americans across the country who are facing uncertainty as a result of COVID-19 to obtain the healthcare coverage that they need during this critical times.
Following Governor Northam’s state of emergency declaration, Attorney General Herring has taken many actions to help Virginians navigate the uncertainty surrounding the COVID19 pandemic. Attorney General Herring has:
- Successfully petitioned the SCC to put a hold on all utility disconnections and, in response to a second request from Attorney
- General Herring, the SCC extended that freeze and suspended all late fees for the duration of the state of emergency
- Reviewed price gouging complaints from around the Commonwealth with his Consumer Protection Section and investigated any potential violations and pursued violators, including sending warning letters to dozens of businesses about which Virginians have complained
- Issued numerous warnings urging Virginians to be wary of COVID19 related scams as well as scams related to the federal stimulus package
- Issued an advisory opinion outlining the authority of public bodies, including local governments, to conduct meetings and critical public business while meeting social distancing needs and important transparency and accountability obligations
- Sent letters to Amazon, Facebook, Craigslist, Ebay, and Walmart urging them to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers who are using their services