Lehigh Valley Congresswoman Susan Wild and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey have introduced a bill that would require a special health insurance enrollment period any time there is a public health emergency declaration like the the coronavirus outbreak.
The legislation calls for a health insurance enrollment period that would last at least 30 days after a public health emergency is declared, a time period that could be extended by federal health officials. It also would require insurance plans to cover any treatments and services related to the outbreak.
Congressional legislation passed this month requires that coronavirus testing be available at no cost, but those infected could still face other costs related from treatment of that disease. Casey said the bill aims to “ensure that hard working families don’t go into financial ruin” as a result of treatment.
“Every single American should have the right to quality and affordable health care, especially when one individual’s health can have such serious consequences for broader public health,” Wild said in a news release announcing the bill.
The new measure comes as the federal Affordable Care Act turns 10 this week. That health care law, which created federal and state-run insurance marketplaces, allows people who lose their insurance or income to sign up any time in the year.
At least 11 states that run their own Obamacare marketplaces have reopened enrollment, according to the New York Times, allowing anyone without comprehensive insurance to sign up without having to prove that they met certain conditions.
Pennsylvania, which will run its own insurance exchange next year, isn’t set up to reopen enrollment on its own. Gov. Tom Wolf has asked federal health officials to allow anyone who may be uninsured or underinsured to enroll in Obamacare plans for 60 days, not just people with life-changing circumstances like a job loss.
The Trump administration, which has opposed the ACA in court and has sought to reduce eligibility for insurance through those marketplaces, has said it is considering a special enrollment period for the Obamacare exchanges.
Three other House Democrats from Pennsylvania -- Reps. Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans of Philadelphia, and Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh -- are co-sponsoring the bill from Wild and Casey.
Washington correspondent Laura Olson can be reached at 202-780-9540 or [email protected].
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