This week, a coalition of healthcare and employer groups called for achieving universal health coverage by expanding financial assistance to consumers, bolstering enrollment and outreach efforts, and taking additional steps to protect those who have lost or are at risk of losing employer-based coverage because of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Affordable Coverage Coalition encompasses groups representing the nation's doctors, hospitals, employers and insurers. They include America's Health Insurance Plans, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Federation of American Hospitals and the American Benefits Council.
They have banded together to advocate for achieving universal coverage via expansion of the Affordable Care Act, which is supported by President Biden. Biden also intends to achieve universal coverage through a Medicare-like public option – a government-run health plan that would compete with private insurers.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT?
Despite a lot of pre-election talk about universal healthcare coverage from elected officials and those vying for public office, achieving it has remained an elusive goal in the U.S. In a joint statement of principles, the groups said that Americans "deserve a stable healthcare market that provides access to high-quality care and affordable coverage for all."
"Achieving universal coverage is particularly critical as we strive to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and work to address long-standing inequities in healthcare access and outcomes," the groups wrote.
The organizations support a number of steps to make health coverage more accessible and affordable, including protecting Americans who have lost or are at risk of losing employer-provided health coverage from becoming uninsured.
They also want to make Affordable Care Act premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions more generous, and expand eligibility for them. They want to establish an insurance affordability fund to support any unexpected high costs for caring for those with serious health conditions, or to otherwise lower premiums or cost-sharing for ACA marketplace enrollees.
Also on the group's to-do list: Restoring federal funding for outreach and enrollment programs, automatically enrolling and renewing those eligible for Medicaid and premium-free ACA marketplace plans, and providing incentives for additional states to expand Medicaid in order to close the low-income coverage gap.
THE LARGER TREND
The concept of universal coverage is gaining traction among patients, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, a Morning Consult poll taken in the pandemic's early days showed about 41% of Americans said they're more likely to support universal healthcare proposals. Twenty-six percent of U.S. adults say they're "much more likely" to support such policy initiatives, while 15% say they're somewhat more likely.
As expected, Democrats were the most favorable to the idea, with 59% saying they were either much more likely or somewhat more likely to support a universal healthcare proposal. Just 21% of Republicans said the same. Independents were somewhere in the middle, with 34% warming up to the idea of blanket coverage.
More than 21% of Republicans said they were less likely to support universal care in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Seven percent of independents reported the same, while for Democrats the number was statistically insignificant.
During his campaign, President Joe Biden said he supported a public option for healthcare coverage. He also pledged to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. By executive order, Biden opened a new ACA enrollment period for those left uninsured. It begins February 15 and goes through May 15.