Democratic Health Leaders Reassert Request to Trump Administration to Help Uninsured and Underinsured

June 15, 2020
Press Release
“The rapid loss of jobs has resulted in tens of millions of people losing employer-sponsored health insurance, and yet, HHS has provided virtually no support to the uninsured and underinsured during this historic crisis.”

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Bicameral Democratic Health Committee leaders wrote to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma today to reassert their request for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to help the millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans sign up for health insurance coverage amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to estimates, more than 20 million Americans who recently lost their employer-based health insurance may be eligible for subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The letter was signed by House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby C. Scott (D-VA), House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“On April 13, 2020 – two months ago – we wrote to [HHS], Labor, and Treasury requesting information on the steps the Administration would take to ensure robust access to health insurance coverage through the Marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act for millions of American families,” the Democratic Committee leaders wrote. “Our request for this information, as well as our request for related data, has gone unanswered, which is unacceptable and part of a troubling trend of this Administration ignoring its constitutional obligations to respond to Congressional oversight requests.  The Administration’s failure to provide this information leaves Congress and the public in the dark as we work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

To date, more than 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March and more and more Americans continue to lose their jobs and health insurance each week as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country.  Meanwhile approximately 28 million Americans are currently uninsured, and the number of uninsured individuals has increased by nearly two million since 2017. 

“The rapid loss of jobs has resulted in tens of millions of people losing employer-sponsored health insurance, and yet, HHS has provided virtually no support to the uninsured and underinsured during this historic crisis,” the Committee leaders continued.  “Estimates show that more than 20 million people who lose employer-sponsored health coverage may become eligible for either Medicaid or Marketplace coverage, and yet this Administration still has not released any data on how many people are enrolling in coverage they are eligible for.  We once again reiterate our request that the Administration establish a broad Special Enrollment Period, available to all Americans, in order to help address the ongoing economic and health crisis.”

In their letter, the Committee leaders noted that HHS’s continued disregard for Congressional oversight may necessitate consideration of additional measures to ensure responsiveness.  The members requested an immediate and complete response to their April 13, 2020 letter, as well as information and answers to a series of questions, including: 

  • A detailed explanation of the steps the Administration is taking to reduce the burden on applicants seeking to enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov who may need to provide supporting documentation to prove loss of coverage; 
  • Data on the number of individuals who enrolled in Marketplace coverage through an SEP from January through May for calendar years 2017 through 2020; and
  • Information on the Administration’s outreach and enrollment activities on SEPs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the amount of funding allocated for outreach and enrollment, and specific advertising, marketing, communication and outreach undertaken by CMS to educate consumers regarding the availability of coverage.  

To read the full letter, click here.

###