The President Trump administration, which backs a lawsuit to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA), refused to open up enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is leading a coalition fighting that in court.
Nessel and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra lead coalition of 14 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief Monday supporting the city of Chicago’s lawsuit challenging the U.S. Health and Human Services’ (HHS) failure to create a special enrollment period in response to COVID-19 for people in 38 states that rely on the federal exchange for health insurance.
The coalition argues there is both a critical need for and a legal obligation to create a special enrollment period on the official health care marketplace website to help millions of individuals obtain health care coverage.
“Thirty-eight states, including Michigan, rely on the health care marketplace to run our health care exchanges and while we continue to face an unprecedented public health crisis, the federal government should want to ensure all who live in this country have access to the care they need to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Nessel. “
Under Obamacare, HHS Secretary Alex Azar with the authority to create special enrollment periods outside of the normal enrollment period for hardships or special situations that may warrant it. Azar is in West Michigan Tuesday to talk about coronavirus.
As a result of COVID-19, over 40 million Americans have lost their jobs. Under current regulations, only those Americans who already had health insurance with their job are eligible for a special enrollment period. Those Americans who lost their jobs but did not have health care coverage through their employer can’t get health coverage.
In the brief, the coalition argues that HHS’s failure to open a special enrollment period violates the Administrative Procedure Act and is contrary to the text of the ACA and its regulations for opening special enrollment periods. The coalition urges the court to find HHS’s inaction unlawful and compel the agency to open a special enrollment period.
The 12 states that run their own health care exchanges have already instituted a special enrollment period in response to COVID-19.
On April 3, a coalition including both Nessel and Becerra sent a letter to HHS urging it to reconsider its decision.
Other attorneys general are from Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina,