Amidst the Pandemic Democrats Are Planning to Automatically Expand Health Coverage

According to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that around 27 million Americans might have lost their jobs as well as their job-based health insurance amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. Out of this staggering number, some of them may have been successful in maintaining health coverage either through Obamacare or COBRA or Medicaid. However, several million people could still end up being uninsured in the mid of the public health emergency.

To prevent any such crisis in the future, Democrats have eventually suggested a plan. A plan has been proposed by the Biden-Sanders unity task force that is to automatically expand health coverage during the current health crisis as well as a future public health crisis. Though the recommendations of the task force have not yet been officially adopted, the aim is to set up automatic support programs.

With the increase and decrease in the unemployment rate, the support programs would be triggered. Right from including an aggressive expansion of Obamacare premium subsidies to a more generous public plan option, the support programs will well look at the people at the time of public health emergency. The task force recommendation indicates the fact that due to financial barriers people are unable to obtain health coverage during a health emergency. The recommendation aims to fill some big holes in the safety net that leaves many people without an affordable offer.

Highlights of the Task Force’s Proposal:

  • All Americans will have access to free Covid-19 testing, vaccines, and treatment.
  • To allow people to enroll in health plans through marketplaces a special enrollment period of 90 days will be established, Trump administration has sharply declined to open up enrollment amidst the pandemic.
  • A health insurance plan with no deductible will be established that will be administered by the Medicare program.
  • People having incomes at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or lower will be enrolled in a public plan without having to pay any premiums.
  • People with expired COBRA coverage will also be automatically placed in the government plan.
  • Obamacare premium subsidies will be expanded and fixed to platinum-level coverage that covers 90% of medical costs. Currently, the premium subsidies are linked to silver-level coverage that covers 70% of the costs. Besides, even the eligibility cutoff at 400% of the federal poverty level will be removed.

In addition to the above-mentioned highlights, provisions will also be there to help states in maintaining their Medicaid programs at the time of budget crisis and also allow additional federal funding to cover 100% of the COBRA coverage cost for laid-off employees.

The very thought of an automatic expansion program will be a huge step, as this idea has started to be a part of the mainstream Democratic policy debate. The Democratic leaders have proposed to start triggers for expanded unemployment insurance along with federal assistance programs. However, to make this policy a reality, these leaders will need to find a place in a presidential platform. Biden campaign informed through the mail that they will be reviewing the task force’s recommendations.

Health insurance policymakers have invested a lot of time to figure out the way to respond to the crisis and to reach a political consensus and in this process, many have suffered. Nevertheless, even if the automatic stabilizers receive Biden’s acceptance and if Biden along with Democratic Congress tried to pass it into law, then there is still likely to be political argumentation. Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker earlier this year showed her support toward this concept, and even some House Democrats were in favor to include this in the most recent stimulus bill that was in a wish list for the House majority, but still, automatic stabilizers couldn’t make it.

Seeing the mood of the Democratic primary debate over health care it can be said that there is no assurance that Democratic Congress could pass a bill which creates the generous public option to automatically enroll potentially millions of people. There is a possibility of enormous debate over an idea like this and even if Democrats sweep the election, they will find it hard to implement.

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