'It is essential that we remove every barrier as quickly as possible to ensure those in our states and across the country are able to access the treatment they need,' the governors wrote.
A dozen Democratic governors sent a letter to the Trump administration on Monday asking it to reopen enrollment on the federal health care exchange in light of the coronavirus crisis.
"In a time of a fast-moving pandemic, taking every step possible to expand access to health insurance is not just a responsible choice for the health of the individual, but also for the health of our communities, our states, and the country," the 12 governors, led by Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer, wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma.
The governors asked the administration to allow a special 30-day enrollment period on the federal health exchange, which would allow individuals and families in 38 states to sign up for health insurance.
"It is essential that we remove every barrier as quickly as possible to ensure those in our states and across the country are able to access the treatment they need," the governors wrote.
In 2018, 27.9 million people in the U.S. lacked health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. There are 1.2 million more uninsured people than there were when Trump was elected.
At least 11 states and Washington, D.C., have opened up state exchanges to allow people to purchase health insurance in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite pressure from Democrats and health insurers, the Trump administration decided in late March against reopening the federal exchange, Politico reported.
The decision is in line with the administration's stance against Obamacare and Trump's repeated efforts to overturn the landmark health care legislation.
After a GOP-led Congress failed in an attempt to repeal the law in 2017, the Trump administration supported a lawsuit led by Republican state officials to overturn the law in court.
In a May 2019 court filing supporting the lawsuit, the Department of Justice wrote that Obamacare "must be struck down" in its entirety.
If the administration is successful, an estimated 20 million people would lose their health care. In addition, benefits of the law, including protections for people with preexisting conditions and the ability of young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance, would vanish.
"Too many of our constituents are uninsured or underinsured," the governors wrote in their letter to Azar, and "far too many of our residents are choosing to forgo coronavirus testing and treatment out of fear of the potential costs to themselves and their families at a time of increasing economic distress."
As of Monday afternoon, at least 571,694 people in the U.S. are confirmed to have COVID-19, and at least 23,036 people have died.
In addition to Whitmer, the letter was signed by John Carney of Delaware, JB Pritzker of Illinois, Janet Mills of Maine, Steve Bullock of Montana, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Kate Brown of Oregon, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Ralph Northam of Virginia, and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.