Democratic Health Leaders Urge Biden Administration to Protect Laid-off Workers from Coverage Gaps

April 6, 2021
Press Release
In letter to HHS Secretary Becerra, Members Seek Special Enrollment Period to Bridge Gap Between End of COBRA Subsidies and Beginning of Open Enrollment

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressional leaders sent a letter asking Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to establish a Special Enrollment Period that will allow unemployed workers to maintain access to affordable coverage after the expiration of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021’s (ARPA) COBRA subsidies—which will make it easier for workers to stay covered after losing a job. According to independent estimates, millions of Americans will access insurance through COBRA over the next six months.

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

While eligible workers who experienced job loss or reduced hours have access to premium-free COBRA coverage through September 30, 2021 under ARPA, they may not be able to receive coverage through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace plans until January 1, 2022. In the letter, the Members note that, absent a Special Enrollment Period, unemployed workers would be forced to either pay the full cost of COBRA coverage – which they may not be able to afford – or go without coverage for three months until they can join a Marketplace plan.

Under a Special Enrollment Period, the workers and their families would have access to a range of Marketplace plans as well as potential premium subsidies to make coverage more affordable.

ARPA provides substantial financial assistance to improve the affordability of health coverage during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  While this financial assistance will provide a crucial lifeline to millions, additional steps are needed to ensure workers and their families are able to access the health coverage they need when this subsidy expires,” wrote the Members. “We urge you to announce the availability of a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for all qualified individuals following the conclusion of ARPA’s premium support program for job-based coverage.”

To read the letter, click here.

###