Health insurance access is vital to limit COVID-19

To effectively contain the spread of COVID-19, an evidenced-based national response is desperately needed. This requires that our country open up the Obamacare heath exchanges throughout the United States to COVID-19 patients so that they don’t go untreated, endangering not only themselves, but everyone else in the country. The scale of this risk is enormous.

In 2018, close to 30,000,000 Americans lacked health insurance, according to NBC News. This number has significantly increased with the escalation of the COVID-19 epidemic. Uninsured people often decide to delay testing and treatment, or not to get tested or treated at all. They make this decision, one that can have tragic consequences for all of us, to avoid the high cost of treatment. CNBC recently reported that an uninsured person who tests positive for COVID-19 can expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for adequate treatment.

Connecticut is one of the 12 states that manage their own health care exchanges. These 12 states opened their exchanges for the public to secure insurance in recent weeks. However, the lack of widespread insurance coverage in the remaining 38 states presents a tremendous risk to the nation’s public health. This virus does not stop at state borders. Unfortunately, those 38 states are dependent on the federal Obamacare platform to access health insurance and consequently their access to the insurance is controlled by this presidential administration and Congress, including a Republican-led Senate.

The insurance industry (which typically advocates to block expansion of extended purchasing time on the public exchanges) has joined Congressional Democrats to call for the national exchanges to open so that more people can secure health insurance. “Given the risk posed by COVID-19, it is more important than ever for people to have health coverage,” wrote the CEOs of America’s Health Insurance Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Because the Trump administration has decided not to open the exchanges for the 38 states on the federal health insurance platform, millions will remain uninsured during this pandemic. To make matters worse, the Trump administration plans to proceed with oral arguments this fall before the Supreme Court which, if successful, would permanently end the public exchange option and terminate health insurance for millions of Americans.

We are fortunate to live in a state that ranks third in the nation for healthcare, defined as, “measuring how well states are meeting citizen’s healthcare needs”, according to the US News and World Report which considers access, quality and overall health of its citizens to establish its rankings. Our governor, Ned Lamont, has taken the necessary action to mandate that Connecticut is one of 12 states to open state exchanges so that people here have health care.

In order to successfully contain this virus, President Trump along with Congressional Republicans must join those governors who are currently extending access to insurance. Intentionally blocking effective solutions to insure the public will prolong the spread of this virus and exponentially increase the human and economic devastation.

The Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee provides the column.