SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein today led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), urging them to reconsider their shortsighted decision to deny a special enrollment period on HealthCare.Gov during the current worldwide pandemic. In the letter, the attorneys general argue that the federal government should take action to make it possible for Americans across the country – who are facing uncertainty as a result of COVID-19 – to obtain the healthcare coverage they need during this critical time.
“As Americans work together to ‘flatten the curve’ of this global health crisis, our leaders must do all they can to support our communities through this period of physical and economic uncertainty,” said Attorney General Becerra. “At a time when millions have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, denying people the opportunity to gain healthcare coverage through HealthCare.Gov is not only irresponsible, it’s immoral. We’re calling on the Trump Administration to do their part so that people across our nation can access affordable, life-saving healthcare treatment. No one should have to choose between taking care of their health and going bankrupt.”
In the letter, the attorneys general point out that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of individuals have lost their jobs—and with their jobs, their ability to pay for healthcare. Many people may be prevented from obtaining treatment because they lack healthcare coverage, or face financial ruin if they seek care. People working on the front lines in grocery stores, food service, transportation, and sanitation are suffering the brunt of the pandemic as they often lack health insurance and work jobs that do not provide sick leave. Because they are uninsured, they are less likely to have a regular place to obtain healthcare and are more likely to delay obtaining care due to fears of the cost. The Trump Administration has long touted choice and “informed healthcare decisions” as the bedrock of its healthcare policies, but now refuses to give Americans the option of obtaining comprehensive healthcare coverage to combat this unprecedented healthcare care crisis.
The attorneys general also highlight that a national solution to this problem requires federal action. While some states run their own health insurance exchanges and may independently extend enrollment – like Covered California did on March 20, 2020 – 38 states, including North Carolina, rely on HealthCare.Gov to run their exchanges. The federal government has the legal ability to call for a special enrollment period, and must take decisive action so that people in those 38 states can obtain the healthcare they need during this critical time.
Joining Attorneys General Becerra and Stein in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the letter is available here.