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Trump admin. says people can sign up for Obamacare after coronavirus job losses

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  • The Trump administration reminded newly jobless Americans they can still opt to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare on Friday.
  • People who lose their jobs qualify to sign up for an Obamacare plan for up to 60 days.
  • Trump recently refused to reopen the federal exchanges for people to obtain health insurance, even as 10 million Americans filed for unemployment last month.
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The Trump administration wants to remind people who have lost their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic that they still have options to replace their employer-provided health insurance.

For example, they can still sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act — former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that President Donald Trump has fiercely fought to strike down since he first took office three years ago.

At a White House press conference on Friday evening, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar laid out options for the surging number of newly uninsured Americans.

 

“If you’ve lost employer insurance coverage you have insurance options that you should look into,” Azar said. “You’d be eligible for a special enrollment period on the health care exchanges and depending on your state, you may be eligible for Medicaid.”

Under the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare, people who recently lost their jobs can buy a health plan from the insurance exchanges for up to 60 days. It’s considered a “qualifying event” allowing jobless people to obtain coverage outside the annual enrollment period, which already passed for the year.

Some states like New York and California, though, have gone ahead and reopened their state exchanges for a special enrollment period, NBC News reported.

Employees who lost their jobs but didn’t have any health coverage may still enroll in Medicaid, the federal program insuring low-income Americans. But that’s a significant hurdle in 14 states that chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

Azar’s striking suggestion collides with the administration’s support of a lawsuit that could eliminate Obamacare and strip 20 million Americans of their coverage.

Trump has refused to reopen the Obamacare exchanges for another enrollment period, rejecting calls from Democrats. The president said on Thursday it “doesn’t seem fair” that nearly 30 million people remain uninsured in the US.

The economic fallout from the coronavirus has caused over 10 million people to file for unemployment benefits in March. It raises the prospect that the number of uninsured Americans could skyrocket into the summer, given around half of Americans receive health coverage through their employers.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think-tank, recently estimated that a whopping 3.5 million people lost their health coverage in the last two weeks of March, underscoring the severity of the crisis.

Congressional Democrats are pushing to expand Obamacare in a future coronavirus relief package, and they’re considering boosting federal subsidies to make plans more affordable and incentivizing states to expand Medicaid.

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