Pappas, Doggett, and Lieu Lead 100 Lawmakers in Calling on the Administration to Open A Special Enrollment Period Now to Help Combat COVID-19

March 13, 2020
Press Release

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the United States, Congressmen Chris Pappas (NH-01), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35) , and Ted Lieu (CA-33) and over 100 lawmakers urged Secretary Alex Azar to utilize his authority to establish a Special Enrollment Period for patients to seek ACA Marketplace coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is particularly important for New Hampshire, which is one of the 38 states covered by the federal exchange. The Department of Health and Human Services has previously opened federal enrollment periods following other disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Dorian.

“As Congress works to ensure that our communities are able to adequately test for COVID-19 at no cost to patients, it is critical that the Department of Health and Human Services join us in making services widely accessible,” said Congressman Pappas. “By taking the crucial step of opening the federal exchanges at this time, Granite Staters would have the ability to protect not only themselves and their families but our communities as a whole. I urge the Administration to honor this request immediately.”

“Many among the close to 30 million Americans living without insurance and estimated 44 million who are underinsured would benefit from such a declaration,” the lawmakers write. “As outbreaks emerge and community spread continues in the United States, our most vulnerable neighbors are those who lack comprehensive health coverage. Without that coverage, they are unlikely to seek treatment for COVID-19, leaving all in our community at risk.”

Full letter here and below:

Dear Secretary Azar:

We write to urge you to establish a Special Enrollment Period to be applicable to all Affordable Care Act Marketplace coverage, including those using healthcare.gov as well as state-based marketplaces, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many among the close to 30 million Americans living without insurance[1] and estimated 44 million who are underinsured[2] would benefit from such a declaration. As outbreaks emerge and community spread continues in the United States, our most vulnerable neighbors are those who lack comprehensive health coverage. Without that coverage, they are unlikely to seek treatment for COVID-19, leaving all in our community at risk. 

You declared COVID-19 a public health emergency on January 31st. Responding to that emergency must include ensuring access to insurance coverage so patients can seek treatment for COVID-19. There is precedent for HHS declaring a Special Enrollment Period during an emergency. In 2017, HHS established a Special Enrollment Period for patients living in areas FEMA deemed eligible for assistance following Hurricanes Irma, Maria, Nate, and Harvey. Similarly, a Special Enrollment Period was established in 2019 for areas affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Providing an opportunity for more Americans to seek health coverage is an important step in assuring public health during this crisis. Without effective action, we are concerned that Americans will not be adequately protected against current and future coronavirus outbreaks. We look forward to your response.