By Lauren Bikoff, MLS
Organizations urge Congress to protect employer-sponsored health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A coalition of 32 organizations has urged Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) to protect employer-sponsored health coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. "As you consider the next round of legislation to overcome COVID-19, we urge you to prioritize maintaining private health benefits for individuals and families and to increase coverage options for those who are already uninsured," the coalitions wrote.
The coalition noted that nearly 180 million Americans receive coverage through their employer, and "it is critical to ensure millions of Americans continue to have employer coverage." However, employers need more support, and the letter urges Congress to:
- Provide employers with temporary subsidies. Many employers experiencing loss of revenue as a result of the economic downturn are compelled to reduce benefits as one way to manage expenses. Congress could help employers by providing subsidies to offset the cost of preserving health coverage during this crisis, the coalition believes.
- Cover the cost of coverage through COBRA. The COVID-19 crisis has already triggered significant job loss. Many individuals may have the option to maintain their job-based health coverage through COBRA but find the costs to be prohibitive, especially if they are facing a significant reduction in income. Congress could offset the full cost of coverage through COBRA to former employees through a direct subsidy, the letter says.
- Expand use of HSAs. Currently, health savings accounts (HSAs) may only be used for certain qualifying expenses, which do not include premiums. According to the coalition, Congress could temporarily lift this limit to provide individuals and families with access to additional resources to cover the cost of coverage.
- Open a special enrollment period for the marketplaces. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)-created health insurance exchanges are an existing source of private coverage for many individuals and families, including those in self-employed households. While individuals who have recently lost employer-based coverage are eligible to enroll in the marketplaces as a result of an existing Special Enrollment Period (SEP), Congress could create a new, one-time SEP for enrollment in the Marketplaces specifically for those individuals who are uninsured and not otherwise eligible for an existing SEP.
- Increase eligibility for federal subsidies for marketplaces. Some individuals and families earned too much money to qualify for marketplace subsidies but too little to afford premiums. Congress could increase access to individual market coverage by increasing eligibility for federal subsidies. The coalition also recommends that Congress temporarily enhance financial assistance for individuals who already rely on the exchange for coverage by reducing the required contribution percentage to lower the cost of premiums.
The letter was signed by 32 organizations, including America’s Health Insurance Plans; the American Benefit Council; the Council for Affordable Health Coverage; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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