AHA, AHIP team with U.S. Chamber urging Congress to protect coverage during pandemic 

Healthcare industry groups are urging Congress to focus on coverage. (Pixabay)

Top hospital, payer, physician and other healthcare industry groups are urging legislators to focus on coverage as they consider the next steps to combat COVID-19. 

A joint letter (PDF) backed by 32 organizations including the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushes for immediate action to assist employers in maintaining coverage and strengthening safety net options as the unemployment rate rises. 

The policy suggestions echo requests from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association—which is also signed on to the letter—to offer subsidies to employers and cover the cost of COBRA benefits for people who’ve lost their jobs. 

“We’re asking them to increase options to protect those with coverage and protect the uninsured as Congress considers the next round of legislation,” Rick Pollack, president of AHA, said on a call with reporters Tuesday. 

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Other asks include opening a federal special enrollment period on Healthcare.gov, growing access to health savings accounts and increasing eligibility for subsidies on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. 

Pollack said that a spike in the number of uninsured could lead to long-term issues as people defer potentially necessary care. New data released last week by Cigna suggests this trend is already happening, as the insurer saw significant drops in claims for acute needs such as heart conditions and appendicitis between March and February. 

In addition, losing coverage could prevent people from accessing care for COVID-19 as well, Pollack said. 

Large numbers of people dropping out of employer coverage will also increase strain on state Medicaid programs and the individual market, further underscoring the need for quick action, the groups wrote in the letter. 

“Employers need more support—and workers need to be able to continue their stable, secure coverage,” they said. “As you consider the next round of legislation to overcome COVID-19, we urge you to prioritize maintaining private health benefits for individuals and families and to increase coverage options for those who are already uninsured.”