U.S. Senators Smith & Shaheen, Ranking Members Wyden & Murray Release Senate Democrats’ Plan to Expand Health Care Coverage & Affordability During COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/22/20]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) alongside Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), released a Senate Democratic plan to expand health care coverage and affordability during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a white paper, the senators outline a series of common sense legislative priorities that the Senate should take up immediately, including expanding premium support through subsidies and tax credits, incentivizing Medicaid expansion in hold-out states, and a special open enrollment period. Their proposal also calls for all COVID-19 treatment costs to be covered, including for the uninsured.

“We need to rise to the challenge of solving America’s health care coverage and affordability problems, which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Sen. Smith. “This plan will help more people access comprehensive health care coverage, and at a more affordable cost. We need to move this plan forward because these investments are critical—especially at a time when millions of Americans are on furlough or have lost their jobs.”

“Access to health care has never been more important,” said Sen. Shaheen. “As our country faces the worst public health crisis in a century, millions are facing furloughs and job losses that make affordable health care coverage an even greater struggle. Americans are sick and tired of the partisan excuses for why health care can’t be more affordable and accessible. There is absolutely no reason why Republicans can’t join Democrats to get this done. This crisis demands bipartisan cooperation – the American people will accept nothing less.”

“Families across the nation are struggling with the economic consequences of the pandemic, and that includes disruption to their health care access,” Sen. Wyden said. “The last thing Americans need right now is to face questions about where they will get health care if they get sick. This proposal outlines practical steps that Congress could pass immediately and give families peace of mind during the pandemic.”

“For families in need, access to quality, affordable health care isn’t a partisan issue—it’s a life and death one. It shouldn’t take a historic global pandemic for Republicans to understand that, but for them to continue ignoring the health care needs of families in the middle of this crisis would be truly inexcusable,” said Sen. Murray. “The absolute least we can do in the middle of an unprecedented public health crisis is help people get the health care they need—and Republicans have no excuse to continue playing politics or dragging their feet on getting these common-sense steps done. We need to act now.” 

A brief overview of the policies included in the Shaheen-Smith-Wyden-Murray proposal:

·Cover all costs for COVID-19 treatment, including for the uninsured;

·Deliver subsidies for the cost of COBRA premiums for the newly unemployed;

·Expand and increase access to premium tax credits that help families afford monthly premiums;

·Incentivize Medicaid expansion in remaining states that have not yet expanded.

·Establish a federal special enrollment period;

·Ban the sale of junk plans;  

·Restore funding for marketplace outreach and enrollment support; 

The Shaheen-Smith-Wyden-Murray proposal is also supported by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

The proposal can be read in full here.