In light of the ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, and in an effort to ensure more Americans have access to affordable health care, Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, both D-Delaware. joined Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and 21 senators on March 13 in urging the Donald Trump administration to open a special enrollment period to allow people at risk of contracting the disease to purchase an Obamacare plan through the health insurance marketplaces.

Currently, about 27.5 million Americans lack health insurance of any kind, and even more are underinsured or have so-called “junk” plans, which could still leave them facing expensive medical bills if hospitalized for treatment for COVID-19 or other health issues. Allowing people to purchase a plan now through the Affordable Care Act helps people and families access care affordably while improving public health and making things safer for entire communities.

“We are deeply concerned that individuals and families will be forced to choose between getting tested and seeking care for COVID-19 to protect themselves, their families and communities from further spread and being left with thousands of dollars in bills that they are unable to pay,” wrote the senators. “In addition, when the uninsured or underinsured are unable to pay their medical bills, it is health care providers who are left to make up the shortfall. Health care providers are already relying on emergency resources to pay for increased capacity and medical supplies in order to be prepared for further spread of COVID-19. As such, and given the ongoing unprecedented public health crisis, we ask that HHS and CMS work to establish special enrollment periods for anyone seeking individual or family coverage through the health exchanges. Having comprehensive, affordable coverage is essential to ensure the health and well-being of the American people, particularly given the lack of access to testing for the COVID-19 and the uncertain trajectory of the outbreak. It is imperative for patients to receive covered care, regardless of whether they test positive or negative for the virus. Patients should not feel the need to avoid care out of fear of incurring medical bills they cannot afford.”

In the past year, 8.3 million people purchased or re-enrolled in Obamacare health plans using the HealthCare.gov platform during the 2020 open enrollment period, which the Trump administration closed Dec. 15, 2019.

The senators are asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reopen the window and establish special enrollment periods for anyone at risk of COVID-19 seeking individual or family coverage through the health exchanges.

“Having comprehensive, affordable coverage is essential to ensure the health and well-being of the American people, particularly given the lack of access to testing for COVID-19 and the uncertain trajectory of the outbreak,” wrote the senators. “It is imperative for patients to receive covered care, regardless of whether they test positive or negative for the virus. Patients should not feel the need to avoid care out of fear of incurring medical bills they cannot afford.”