WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAVY) — The next round of coronavirus relief legislation will likely focus on providing healthcare for millions of Americans who have found themselves suddenly jobless and uninsured due to the pandemic.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, from Virginia, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, from New Hampshire, and U.S. Senator Doug Jones, from Alabama, hosted a press call on Friday to discuss what that legislation could look like, if passed.
Warner said the next round of COVID-19 legislation will likely focus on expanding medicaid in more than a dozen states where benefits are not accessible to uninsured and low-income people.
Medicaid expansion was passed in Virginia about two years ago. Warner called Virginia a “late expander,” but said that the move has dramatically increased access to healthcare for people in the Commonwealth.
“We signed up about 340,000 additional Virginians to Medicaid,” Warner said. “Our health care systems are more resilient today with this Medicaid expansion than they would have been if they were dealing with COVID-19 without expansion.”
Warner said that Medicaid expansion will play an important role in making sure millions of Americans don’t go without health insurance during the COVID-19 crisis. In the last month, 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment., many of whom will lose health care benefits along with their income.
27 million Americans were already uninsured before the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner said.
“We don’t know how much larger that number will grow. Those numbers have the possibility to double,” Warner said, adding that the nation could see 50 million or more uninsured residents throughout the pandemic.
Warner said he hopes the next COVID-19 legislation will include a pathway for more than a dozen states to expand Medicaid without penalties.
Other healthcare options are also on the table, Warner said.
One proposal is to reopen the Affordable Care Act marketplace. This would allow new people to enroll in health insurance plans through the ACA. The government could provide insurance premium assistance to Americans to make those plans affordable during the COVID-19 crisis.
If a person who was insured through their employer loses their job, they may also qualify for health insurance for a period of time through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation (COBRA) Act. COBRA provides health insurance to former employees for a period of time after they leave their job. These healthcare plans are often expensive. Warner said new legislation could include insurance premium assistance to make COBRA plans more affordable for Americans.
“We’re ready to work with the administration,” Warner said. “This should not be a partisan issue.”
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