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As millions lose health insurance, Trump administration offers little help

Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- As millions of people lose jobs in the coronavirus outbreak, jeopardizing their health benefits, the Trump administration and many states are doing little if anything to connect Americans with other insurance coverage.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department hasn't launched any special effort to publicize the availability of Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program or health plans being sold on marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.

And federal officials haven't made any substantial new commitment of money for outreach or to help people enroll in coverage.

In California and 11 other states that operate their own insurance marketplaces, state governments have created special enrollment periods to give people more time to enroll in health coverage during the pandemic.

But patient advocates around the country say many state governments have been largely silent, as well, leaving nonprofit groups, health clinics that serve poor patients and others scrambling to get the word out to people losing health insurance in the outbreak.

"People are really struggling, but there is virtually no communication," said Jodi Ray, project director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, which works to expand health coverage in the state.

 

In Texas, which already has the nation's highest uninsured rate and is now suffering one of the worst outbreaks, advocates are becoming increasingly concerned that growing numbers of people are falling through the cracks.

"There is a desperate need for strong, consistent consumer information," said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of Every Texan, a longtime advocate for strengthening the state's safety net.

The Association for Community Affiliated Plans, a trade group representing health insurers, was so concerned about inaction by the Trump administration that it launched its own advertising campaign last month to direct people to online marketplaces.

"Tens of millions of people have lost employer-based coverage, but federal agencies aren't helping to lead people to the best resources available: the state and federal insurance marketplaces," said Margaret A. Murray, the group's chief executive.

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