Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

Opinion column from Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which tracks the ongoing sabotage to enrolling as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating in Wisconsin. We have lost more than 4,000 of our friends and neighbors forever as hundreds of thousands of others also must face the economic impact of the pandemic. 

For many Wisconsinites, the loss of a job has also meant the loss of health insurance at a time when access to health care is more important than ever. Fortunately, Wisconsinites have until Dec. 15th to enroll in health coverage for 2021 through online exchanges. Despite the Trump administration’s relentless sabotage of the Affordable Care Act, high quality, affordable health plans remain available on the marketplace. As COVID-19 surges here and across the country, health coverage through the marketplace remains a lifeline – an important tool in Wisconsinites’ fight to stay safe and healthy. 

Despite widespread job loss across the country which triggered the greatest insurance coverage losses in American history, the Trump administration continues to undermine Americans’ access to affordable health care by limiting the window to sign up for coverage and making it difficult for people to get the information they need to enroll in health coverage. The Trump administration has cut funding for in-person assistance by over 80% and slashed funding for advertising with information about enrollment. 

For years, the Trump administration has tried to push short-term “junk” plans and other alternatives meant to draw younger, healthier people out of the marketplaces. Often, these plans offer limited coverage and circumvent the Affordable Care Act’s vital consumer protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions. Still, President Donald Trump and Republicans push these plans on vulnerable Wisconsinites, disregarding the warnings from health policy experts who agree that junk plans are dangerous and undermine the marketplaces themselves.

Even in the middle of a global pandemic, the Trump administration continues to take actions that would make it harder for people to get health care when they need it most. Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Republican-backed lawsuit to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, commonly referenced as Obamacare. If the Court sides with Trump and overturns the Affordable Care Act, then millions of Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions could once again be discriminated against by insurers. Instead of setting aside politics, and prioritizing access to health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has sabotaged our health system and worked to confuse Wisconsinites about their options to enroll in coverage. These efforts are more than irresponsible; they are dangerous and outright cruel. 

The good news is that despite these attacks, the ACA marketplaces are still open through Dec. 15 and offer high quality health coverage to Wisconsinites. As COVID-19 cases keep spiking and our country faces a period of transition, the open enrollment period provides a lifeline that has never been more important for those whose lives have been turned upside down during the pandemic.