The American Hospital Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and America's Health Insurance Plans are among close to 30 organizations asking Congress to prioritize maintaining private insurance and increasing coverage options as numerous employees lose their healthcare benefits during COVID-19.
They offered a menu of options for covering the uninsured, whether the individual was furloughed, laid off or unemployed.
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The menu of options includes:
- Providing employers with temporary subsidies to preserve health benefits, since they've had to reduce benefits to manage expenses. Congress could help employers by providing subsidies to offset the cost of coverage, the groups said.
- Offsetting the full cost of coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, to former employees through a direct subsidy. Many individuals have the option to maintain their job-based health coverage through COBRA but find the costs to be prohibitive, especially if they are facing a significant reduction in income.
- Expanding the use of health savings accounts for more than just qualifying expenses, including premiums. Congress could temporarily lift current limits to provide individuals and families with access to additional resources to cover the cost of coverage.
- Opening a special enrollment period for the health insurance marketplaces of the Affordable Care Act. Congress could create a new, one-time special enrollment period for individuals who are uninsured and not otherwise eligible for an existing SEP.
Also, Congress could increase the eligibility for federal subsidies in the marketplace for individuals and families who earn too much money to qualify.
The groups also recommend that Congress temporarily enhance financial assistance for individuals who already rely on the marketplace for coverage by reducing the required contribution percentage to lower the cost of premiums.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The coronavirus pandemic has increased the number of uninsured patients, said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association.
AHIP CEO and President Matt Eyles said as many as 35 million Americans could be left without coverage.
Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services is using a portion of the $100 billion authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to cover the costs of the uninsured. This approach will quickly deplete the fund and not provide the benefits of comprehensive coverage, which include protections for preexisting conditions and establishing a regular connection between patients and care providers, the groups said.
THE LARGER TREND
Many insurers have said they are covering the cost of testing and treatment for COVID-19 and some are including inpatient stays, but uninsured individuals who fear getting a healthcare bill may hesitate to seek testing or treatment.
ON THE RECORD
Neil Bradley, executive vice president and Chief Policy Officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, "There are many items that we'd like to see Congress focus on in future legislation, and maintaining health benefits and increasing coverage options need to be top priorities in order to continue supporting individuals, families and employers."
Matt Eyles, president and CEO of AHIP, said, "Health insurance providers are taking decisive actions to ensure that the tens of millions of Americans we cover have the best possible access to care. But those actions do not help American families if they lose their coverage."
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