House Democrats urge Trump administration to reopen ObamaCare exchanges

House Democrats urge Trump administration to reopen ObamaCare exchanges
© Greg Nash

Dozens of House Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to reopen ObamaCare enrollment in states where the federal government runs the insurance exchanges.

A group of 65 Democrats said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should open a special enrollment period in the states that don't run their own exchanges. The Trump administration operates exchanges in about two-thirds of all states.

"This is an unprecedented financial constraint that could prevent millions of people from seeing doctors to get tested or treated. We urge HHS and CMS to establish a special enrollment period for the coronavirus and rightfully extend the opportunity for millions of uninsured Americans to newly seek out coverage," the Democrats, led by Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroEPA closer to unveiling plan for tackling 'forever chemicals' House sends bill to Biden to avert government shutdown at midnight Holding back on defensive systems for Israel could have dangerous consequences MORE (D-Conn.), wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

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Trump and other White House officials had initially indicated that they were considering a relaunch of HealthCare.gov. But the White House confirmed that the administration decided against a special enrollment period and was reviewing other options.

Last week, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE said the administration will use money from the recently-passed stimulus bill to reimburse hospitals that treat uninsured patients. The money would come from the $100 billion in funds meant to help hospitals respond to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The open enrollment period for 2020 coverage ended in mid-December, but most Democratic states that operate their own exchanges have reopened enrollment as a result of the pandemic.

The health care law allows for a special enrollment for people who lost their employer coverage, but not for people who lost jobs and can't afford to pay health insurance premiums. 

Outside of ObamaCare, people who lose their employer-sponsored healthcare can enroll in COBRA to extend their coverage, but it is expensive. Medicaid is an option in states that have expanded coverage, but that's not available to the entire country. 

The Trump administration has also touted the availability of short-term plans, which the administration made available year-round. But while those plans are cheaper, the quality varies and they are not required to offer the same range of coverage as ObamaCare plans. For example, many do not offer protection against discrimination for people with pre-existing conditions.