AG takes on Trump admin. for not opening Obamacare enrollment during COVID-19

    Demonstrators protest changes to the Affordable Care Act on June 22, 2017 | Scott Olson/Getty Images

    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.

    Attorney General Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

    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. “Michigan has been significantly affected by this pandemic, with an unemployment rate that now exceeds 22% and positive cases surpassing the 60,000 mark. It is vital that our residents and all individuals across the 38 federally-run exchanges have access to the coverage they need to keep themselves and those around them safe.”

    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.

    600K Michiganders lost employer-based health insurance during pandemic

    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, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

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    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.