Hospitals, US Chamber call on Congress to protect health coverage in next package

Hospitals, US Chamber call on Congress to protect health coverage in next package

Hospitals, businesses and insurers are calling on Congress to take action to protect health insurance coverage as the coronavirus pummels the economy. 

Groups including the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday outlining a range of proposals to protect health coverage given the crisis. 

“Millions of individuals will join the ranks of the uninsured unless you act,” the letter to Congress states. 

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“As you consider the next round of legislation to overcome COVID-19, we urge you to prioritize maintaining private health benefits for individuals and families and to increase coverage options for those who are already uninsured,” the letter states. 

The groups propose a range of options, which they emphasized would be temporary, including increasing Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies to provide more financial assistance to people, opening a special enrollment period to allow the uninsured to enroll in ACA plans, providing new subsidies to employers to help them maintain health benefits for workers, and paying for the costs for laid-off workers to keep their employer coverage through the COBRA program. 

The options are focused on maintaining the role of private health insurance coverage, in contrast to the proposals to expand government programs like Medicare backed by progressive Democrats.

Still, these options could also run into resistance from Republicans, who have long opposed ideas like increasing the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act. 

Supporters said they hoped the coronavirus crisis would change the political dynamic, and emphasized the temporary nature of the proposals. 

“Our sense is people are open to new ideas,” Rick Pollack, CEO of the American Hospital Association, said on a call with reporters. “The politics that we’ve seen in the past may not be in play as we look at the challenge that is facing us.”

“No one’s trying to rewrite long term policy here,” added Neil Bradley, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We're trying to address immediate needs.”