Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the state has already taken several steps to expand healthcare access during the COVID-19 crisis.
On Monday, she and the governors of 11 other states asked the federal government for help to do more.
Whitmer joined a coalition of 12 governors who sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Admiistrator Seema Verma to ask the Trump Administration to reconsider its decision and take swift action to allow for a special enrollment period of at least 30 days on the federal healthcare exchange (view the letter here: ACA Special Enrollment Letter 4.13.2020.pdf).
In the face of the worst public health crisis in modern history, the governors argued, it is “imperative that every step be taken” to expand access to affordable health care for those in need.
“Too many of our constituents are uninsured or underinsured despite the steps we’ve taken at the state level,” the governors said. “As a result, far too many of our residents are choosing to forgo coronavirus testing and treatment out of fear of the potential costs to themselves and their families. It is essential that we remove every barrier as quickly as possible to ensure those in our states and across the country are able to access the treatment they need. One of the most effective ways this can be done is by opening up a federal special enrollment period to give everyone the chance to enroll in a health plan that offers the coverage they need with access to any qualifying subsidies.”
Whitmer joined the governors of Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. She pointed to steps taken in Michigan, including increasing the ability for people to have telemedicine, but urged the federal government to help.
“It is essential that we remove barriers as quickly as possible to ensure more Michiganders have access to life-saving healthcare,” Whitmer said Monday at her coronavirus briefing. “We need the federal government to agree to opening up the special enrollment period.
It wouldn’t be the first time the federal government offered a special enrollment period for healthcare.
After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated communities across the Southern United States, CMS announced a special enrollment period for those impacted by the storms. Special enrollment periods have also been used to respond to more personal situations such as house fires or domestic violence.
“In a time of a fast-moving pandemic, taking every step possible to expand access to health insurance is not just a responsible choice for the health of the individual, but also for the health of our communities, our states, and the country,” the governors continued. “We as governors have done and will continue to do everything we can for our residents, and we hope that you will take all the necessary steps that only you can for them as well.”
On March 12, Whitmer and Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) Director Anita Fox called on the Trump administration to allow for a special enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act (www.healthcare.gov) to allow more Americans, including Michiganders, to sign up for coverage and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Also on March 12, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters urged the Trump Administration to open a special enrollment period to allow people without health insurance or short-term plans to purchase a health care plan through the health insurance marketplaces. “We’re calling on the Trump Administration to do the right thing, reconsider its decision, and allow for a special enrollment period, and it’s also why we’re taking action in Michigan to expand opportunities for safe, quality care,” Whitmer said. “We will continue to work with our partners across both state and federal government, as well as those in the private sector, to ensure Michiganders everywhere can access the care they need.”