Sununu seeks special period to enroll in Obamacare

2020-03-18 | The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester)

March 18-- Mar. 18--CONCORD -- Gov. Chris Sununu asked top Trump administration officials Wednesday to create a special 60- to 90-day enrollment period for consumers to purchase health care coverage in the individual market under Obamacare during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sununu made the request in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma.

"This action would allow individuals especially those who are potentially at risk for COVID-19 to access affordable health care through the federal facilitated individual marketplace," Sununu wrote.

A group of Democratic state senators urged Sununu to find ways to help the newly unemployed sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

These laid-off workers would be able to more easily enroll in individual market plans on the health benefit marketplace, they said.

"Ensuring health insurance for as many Granite Staters as possible is critical. Enrolling in a healthcare.gov plan can be confusing, and, as you know, the Trump administration has scaled back consumer enrollment assistance," wrote State Sens. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua, Dan Feltes of Concord, Kevin Cavanaugh of Manchester and Tom Sherman of Rye.

Feltes is a Democratic primary candidate for governor in 2020.

Sununu had been working on the letter to the Trump administration officials before Democratic lawmakers made their request.

Allowing the special enrollment period would give citizens peace of mind, the governor said.

"Individuals who believe they are demonstrating symptoms of the virus will have greater confidence to get tested and guard against further spread if they know they have a health care plan that will cover them," Sununu said

The traditional enrollment period under Obamacare is each year from Nov. 1-Dec. 15.

The Affordable Care Act does permit citizens to purchase health insurance at other times if they have a "life-changing event" such as a wedding, the birth of a child or the loss of their job.

The New Hampshire Health Care Coalition wrote to Sununu earlier this week seeking this action and noting that almost 77,000 state residents -- 6% of the population -- do not have health insurance.

" A special open enrollment period will allow more people to obtain health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act so we are all better protected against the threat of coronavirus COVID-19," the letter said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com