Obamacare Markets Will Not Reopen, Trump Decides

ImagePresident Trump late last week on his way to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

Credit…Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The Trump administration has decided against reopening the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare.gov marketplaces to new customers, despite broad layoffs and growing fears that people will be uninsured during the coronavirus outbreak.

The option to reopen markets, in what is known as a special enrollment period, would have made it easier for people who have recently lost jobs or who had already been uninsured to obtain health insurance. The administration has established such special enrollment periods in the past, typically in the wake of natural disasters.

The administration had been considering the action for several weeks, and President Trump mentioned such conversations in a recent news briefing. But according to a White House official, those discussions are now over. The news of the decision was previously reported by Politico.

Under current law, people who lose job-based insurance already qualify to enroll for health insurance on the marketplaces, but are required to provide proof that they lost their coverage. A special enrollment period would have made it easier for such people to enroll, because it would not require that paperwork. It also would have provided a new option for people who chose not to buy health insurance this year but want it now.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have established special enrollment periods to allow people to obtain new insurance coverage. The states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, and they control their marketplaces. But federal action would have been required to allow customers to re-enter the markets in the 38 states with markets run by Healthcare.gov. or that use the federal platform.

Insurers, which had been arguing in favor of the enrollment period, had been hopeful just a few days ago that the White House might announce such a step. But the situation suddenly became “fluid,” in the description of one executive. Another described the administration as divided about whether to proceed, especially given the president’s support for a federal lawsuit that would overturn the entire law.

Many members of Congress had also urged a special enrollment period. But Congress declined to require such an enrollment period in its last round of coronavirus legislation, instead leaving the decision to federal officials.

Even though the White House official described the matter as decided, officials have the capability to establish a special enrollment period at any time.

Noah Weiland and Reed Abelson contributed reporting

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