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Washington, D.C., April 2, 2020 – The Trump administration’s decision not to reopen the Affordable Care Act’s federal health insurance exchanges to new enrollees jeopardizes the health of millions, according to the American Public Health Association.
“This is a missed opportunity to ensure care and save lives,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “Without health insurance coverage, many people will delay getting the care they need — for COVID-19 and other medical reasons — because of cost. That delay could risk both their health and the health of their communities.”
Over the last month, 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, with many more expected to do so. As the COVID-19 pandemic has closed businesses and kept people at home, the U.S. unemployment rate has risen to 5.8%.
Failure to reopen the federal exchanges denies a crucial opportunity to obtain affordable health coverage for people who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 outbreak or were already uninsured, Benjamin said. Reopening health exchanges also reduces uncompensated care cost to hospitals, clinics and other providers.
“There are millions of people with preexisting conditions that do not go away when they lose their jobs,” Benjamin said. “They run the risk of becoming impoverished because of health care costs for their ongoing needs. And this problem is magnified for people who become infected with COVID-19.”
The Trump administration’s decision will only apply to the 38 states that are part of the federal health insurance exchange. Among the states that run their own insurance marketplaces, 11 of them and the District of Columbia are creating special enrollment periods to allow people to obtain affordable insurance. Benjamin applauded the decision of those states and D.C. to reopen enrollment and urged the federal government to rethink its decision and do the same.
“Failure to reopen the federal health exchanges is an unsound policy decision and must be reversed,” he said. “Ensuring access to affordable health insurance should be a priority during this national crisis.”
The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.