Culpeper Star-Exponent: Spanberger: Let people buy ACA insurance during pandemic

CULPEPER STAR EXPONENT, CLINT SCHEMMER

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger is urging the Trump administration to provide affordable health-care coverage to people who may be at risk of developing COVID-19.

The Central Virginia congresswoman called on officials Wednesday to open a special enrollment period for individuals’ health insurance sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act during the coronavirus pandemic.

Unless the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does so, Virginians must wait until November 2020 to buy new or updated marketplace insurance plans, the 7th District lawmaker’s office said.

The Virginia Healthcare Foundation reported this year that about 712,000 Virginians under age 65 didn’t have health insurance in 2018. More than 64 percent of these uninsured residents were in working families. Many such families are eligible for subsidized plans through the ACA Marketplace.

Spanberger, with more than 100 of her House colleagues, asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar to establish the special enrollment period for patients seeking ACA Marketplace coverage. Previously, HHS opened federal enrollment after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Dorian.

“Many among the close to 30 million Americans living without insurance and estimated 44 million who are under-insured would benefit from such a declaration,” the legislators wrote Azar. “As outbreaks emerge and community spread continues in the United States, our most vulnerable neighbors are those who lack comprehensive health coverage. Without that coverage, they are unlikely to seek treatment for COVID-19, leaving all in our community at risk.”

The lawmakers said providing a way for more Americans to seek health coverage would be “an important step” in bolstering public health during the crisis.

“Without effective action, we are concerned that Americans will not be adequately protected against current and future coronavirus outbreaks,” they said.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee’s subcommittee on health, led the letter-writers.

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