Protect Our Care Illinois sends letter to federal CMS demanding care

In the ongoing effort to demand equitable access to high quality health care for all Illinoisans, Protect Our Care Illinois has drafted a letter calling on federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to adopt additional policies to expand access to affordable health care during the COVID-19 crisis.

The letter below, signed by over 30 advocates, has been sent to CMS, the IL Congressional Delegation, the Governor’s office, and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS).

Letter to CMS:

“On March 1, 2020, President Donald Trump declared the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a national emergency with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic ten days later. As of the date of this letter, there are more than 243,000 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases nationwide with over 7,700 cases here in the state of Illinois that has taken the lives of 157 Illinoisans. Unfortunately, federal health officials note that the number of infections and deaths associated with COVID-19 will grow exponentially in the coming days and weeks. The gravity of this global health emergency presents an array of significant challenges that is imperative we address.

As a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to health equity, Protect Our Care Illinois is very concerned about how individuals and communities across the state will access the medical care necessary to combat COVID-19. We are additionally alarmed by the millions of Americans that will lose their health insurance due to COVID-19 related employment layoffs, closures, and terminations. We strongly believe that, during these tumultuous times, we should be ensuring that all Americans are able to get the critical medical care that they need and deserve.

Considering these challenges, Protect Our Care Illinois believes that the following policy priorities should be adopted immediately:

  • Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) should alleviate existing barriers to individuals applying for Medicaid that may not have been addressed in the previous Section 1115/1135 waivers, including addressing lack of access to the online application for individuals without access to a computer during the federal emergency. Specifically, we ask that CMS allow Illinois to enable individuals to “sign” a Medicaid application via an assistor (e.g., an individual at a community-based organization that provides application assistance, whether or not they are a certified application counselor) without being physically present with that assistor during the federal emergency;
  • Ensure all COVID-19 treatment is covered with no out of pocket costs to the consumer. Although testing is currently covered, additional costs remain, such as those related to copays, hospitalization, and physical therapy related to COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment;
  • We strongly urge the Administration to reconsider their position and follow the example of nearly every state with a state-based marketplace, and enact a special enrollment period for 90 days with the possibility for an extension as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This must happen to allow uninsured and underinsured residents to enroll in health coverage through the federal health insurance exchange;

In addition, we request that any new coverage obtained on the federal Marketplace through a special enrollment period be in place as soon as possible.

  • Adjust financial assistance for current Marketplace enrollees. Cost of coverage remains a barrier for many people, and even those who have coverage will be reluctant to seek testing and care, if they face a prohibitive cost-sharing burden. The federal government should temporarily boost advanced premium tax credits (APTC) for all eligible to no less than the lowest cost Bronze plan for the remainder of the calendar year.

Although not an exhaustive list, we believe that these policy recommendations will go a long way to guarantee that the most vulnerable in our communities do not fall through the cracks during this global pandemic. We look forward to working with the President’s administration, CMS officials, and elected officials on Capitol Hill and in Springfield to address the challenges posed by COVID-19. As a coalition we remain steadfast in our commitment that all Illinoisans should have access to quality affordable health care.”