Proposal could help 6 million Americans. Biden wants to beef up Affordable Care Act. Trump COVID health plan not keeping promises.
Senate Democrats, including Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, have introduced a bill designed to help those who lost health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic find new coverage.
The COVID Enrollment Response (COVER) Act, would pump $600 million into programs ranging from application assistance to outreach to help millions of uninsured Americans regain health coverage. About 6.2 million people in America lost employee-sponsored health insurance coverage between February and July as mass layoffs occurred during the pandemic, according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute.
“We need to support enrollment assistance now more than ever before, especially given the number of people in need of comprehensive coverage, and the additional burdens in providing assistance due to COVID-19,” Baldwin said in the announcement. The initiative would supplement services provided by overwhelmed health insurance navigator programs, run by state agencies and unions, that connect uninsured workers with health care coverage.
Baldwin proposed the bill as the Senate’s Republican majority failed again to advance their own version of a new coronavirus relief package as a means of negotiating with House Democrats who passed their own version, the HEROES Act, in mid-May. The Democratic proposal includes subsidies for out-of-work Americans to afford COBRA coverage, a program for continuing to receive health insurance through the policy of their now-former employers.
If no agreement is reached, voters may have to wait for the winner of November’s presidential election to advance their own plans to help Americans whose coverage was wiped out in the pandemic.
Democrat Joe Biden talks frequently of building on the success of the Affordable Care Act by boosting subsidies for people to purchase private insurance coverage in the program’s marketplaces and by adding a public option for health insurance run by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services rather than a private insurance company.
“My economic plan is all about jobs, dignity, respect, and community,” Biden said in his Democratic convention acceptance speech, “Together, we can, and we will, rebuild our economy. With a health care system that lowers premiums, deductibles, and drug prices by building on the Affordable Care Act [President Trump is] trying to rip away.”
In May, President Trump proposed his own health care assistance initiatives for Americans affected by the pandemic, but it has yet to live up to its promises. The COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement Program is supposed to cover testing and treatment for uninsured people infected by the coronavirus, but it has been plagued by confusion, mistaken billing, and lack of hospital participation. The program does not cover prescription drugs after a hospitalization or chronic conditions that make people more susceptible to COVID-19, reports the New York Times.
It is also only a stopgap program—using money from an earlier coronavirus relief package that will run out. The only long-term health care plan put forward by the administration is an ongoing effort to have the Affordable Care Act killed by the US Supreme Court.
Wisconsin’s Republican senator, Ron Johnson, told right-wing news site Breitbart last month that the negotiation breakdown in Congress over coronavirus aid “is very good news” because it means the government won’t need to spend more money supporting the millions of Americans still in need of aid.