Press Releases

Kuster Calls for ACA Special Open Enrollment Period in the Event of Public Health Emergency Declaration

This week, Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined her colleagues to support the Ensuring Coverage in Public Health Emergencies Act of 2020. This legislation would require a special enrollment period for the ACA Marketplace in the event of a public health emergency declaration and require health plans to cover any testing, treatment, and services related to COVID-19 and other future public health emergencies. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Azar declared a public health emergency for coronavirus at the end of January - this bill would allow Americans to enroll in health coverage through the ACA Marketplace under this declaration.

“Public health emergencies can impact anyone, leaving those without access to quality care especially vulnerable,” said Kuster. “Nothing is more important than protecting the health and well-being of our communities. It’s clear that we need a special open enrollment period given the disruption to our health care system and economy caused by COVID-19. I am proud to support the Ensuring Coverage in Public Health Emergencies Act to ensure that Americans have the opportunity to access quality, affordable care in the event of a public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Ensuring Coverage in Public Health Emergencies Act was introduced by Rep. Doggett (TX-35) in the House and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate. The legislation would help to lower the barriers to care for patients and provide certainty for Americans, which is particularly important during public health emergencies. This bill allows people to enroll in coverage that provides comprehensive benefits, regardless of whether they are healthy or, in this case, diagnosed with COVID-19. With this legislation, under a Public Health Emergency, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) would:

  • Establish a special enrollment period of at least 30 days, open to anyone who wants to enroll and can be extended at the Secretary’s discretion;
  • Ensure that patients can get prevention, diagnostics, and treatment comparable to what they might expect for similar services outside of a public health emergency;
  • Waive restrictions and limitations on access to covered benefits, such as prior authorization requirements and limitations on filling or refilling prescription drugs, when the services are determined to be medically necessary by the patient’s health care provider and such restrictions are determined to be unduly burdensome by the Secretary.