May 27, 2020

Udall, Heinrich Release Plan to Expand Access to Health Insurance and Affordability Amid Pandemic

Proposal would make Affordable Care Act marketplace plans and COBRA coverage more affordable for recently unemployed and cover costs for COVID treatment

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined 33 Senate Democrats to release a plan to dramatically expand access to health insurance for all Americans and cover all COVID-19 treatment costs amid the current pandemic. The senators outlined a commonsense policy proposal that would reduce costs for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance marketplace plans and create a special enrollment period to obtain coverage, subsidize the high cost of COBRA plans for the newly unemployed, expand Medicaid national enrollment and protect American families with preexisting conditions from predatory “junk” insurance plans. Their proposal also calls on the Senate to immediately take up legislation to cover the cost of COVID-19 treatment for all, including the country’s uninsured.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal have acted decisively to assist New Mexicans who may have lost their jobs or income during the pandemic and need to maintain health care coverage for themselves and their families. New Mexicans can visit https://www.bewellnm.com/qualify-for-coverage to see if they are eligible for coverage through Medicaid, the ACA marketplace or the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool (NMMIP). However, unlike Medicaid or coverage through the NMMIP, which allows enrollment year-round, federally-imposed limits on the health care exchange restrict New Mexicans from applying for health insurance on beWellnm more than 60 days after losing their job. This plan would create a special enrollment period during the pandemic eliminating this 60 day restriction so that families struggling with job loss have added flexibility to apply, which Udall and Heinrich have called for previously. 

“Quality and affordable health care is both a moral imperative and the best policy to protect our public health in New Mexico and across the country,” said Udall. “While confronting the worst public health crisis in a century and with millions of Americans and New Mexicans losing their health insurance along with their jobs, it is more important than ever to make sure people have quality health care. While states like New Mexico are leading the way in expanding access to healthcare for all, the Trump administration and Senate Republicans must stop standing in the way and open the door to lifesaving health care for families across the country.”

“Millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the middle of the worst public health crisis we have faced in generations,” said Heinrich. “We must do everything we can to ensure they can continue to receive health coverage. These proposals from Senate Democrats provide a clear path forward to make sure these workers and their families won't be left without lifesaving care. Commonsense measures like this are imperative if we want to be sure no New Mexican is left behind. I will keep calling on President Trump and Senate Republicans to join us in supporting a robust public health response that is rooted in science and economic relief measures that meet the full scale of this crisis.”

A brief overview of the policies included in the proposal includes:

  • Covering all costs for COVID-19 treatment, including for the uninsured;
  • Delivering subsidies for the cost of COBRA premiums for the newly unemployed;
  • Expanding and increasing access to premium tax credits that help families afford monthly premiums;
  • Incentivizing Medicaid expansion in remaining states that have not yet expanded;
  • Establishing a federal special enrollment period;
  • Banning the sale of junk plans; and
  • Restoring funding for marketplace outreach and enrollment support

In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the proposal, authored by Senators Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), is also supported by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

The proposal can be read in full here.