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People to Congress: Enroll Uninsured Laid-Off Workers in Medicare

Public Citizen Launches Petition to Ensure People Have Health Care During the Pandemic

WASHINGTON - Congress must immediately and automatically enroll in Medicare any American who loses their health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic due to layoffs, Public Citizen said today. The organization on Friday launched a petition to mobilize people to pressure lawmakers; it now has more than 6,500 signatures.

In the last two weeks of March alone, nearly 10 million Americans filed for unemployment. Because our for-profit health care system ties health insurance to employment, this means that millions of workers and their families are now without health insurance while our country endures the worst health crisis in at least a century.

Sending people to health exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act is not sufficient because those exchanges can be unaffordable to many, as some plans have high out-of-pocket costs. With millions of people no longer getting a paycheck, paying insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses will only deter people from seeking care they need.

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Even if the federal government pays hospitals to treat uninsured people who have contracted the coronavirus, as the Trump administration has said it will do, that won’t cover treatment for illnesses not associated with the coronavirus.

“With millions of people losing their jobs because of a pandemic, it’s both crazy and immoral for them to be stripped of health insurance,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “If we had a Medicare for All system, this kind of problem wouldn’t occur. But we can’t wait to win Medicare for All. The solution to this immediate problem is to enroll all unemployed people in Medicare.”

“Not only can Medicare help individual Americans get through this crisis, but it also can help us collectively protect public health as the pandemic intensifies,” he added.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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