Latest Update February 3, 2021

Lawsuit Over Trump Admin’s Refusal to Reopen ACA Special Enrollment Amid Pandemic Resolved

Following the Biden administration’s announcement last week that it will open a special enrollment period to allow Americans affected by the pandemic to enroll in health insurance, the City of Chicago voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) refusal to open one under the Trump administration.

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Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, President Trump and his administration refused to open a special enrollment period to allow millions of Americans affected by a once-in-a-century pandemic to enroll in high-quality, affordable health insurance offered on Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. The ACA and its regulations require the Department of Health and Human Services to open a special enrollment period when consumers face “exceptional circumstances,” which includes a pandemic like COVID-19. But President Trump refused to open one — despite calls from a diverse and bipartisan group of stakeholders to do so — apparently because of his personal opposition to the ACA.

Millions of Americans have likely lost their health coverage in recent months. Even though health coverage for all Americans is critical in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration has arbitrarily refused to allow special enrollment, making it harder for uninsured Americans to get affordable care. Without a special enrollment period, millions of Americans worried about whether they or their families might contract the virus are unlawfully being denied access to the affordable health insurance offered on the 38 exchanges operated on HealthCare.gov.

The refusal to reopen enrollment exacerbates the spread of COVID-19 by making it more difficult for families to get tested and treated for the virus. Even worse, the Trump administration’s refusal means there are more uninsured Americans, forcing municipalities like Chicago to bear additional financial and human costs associated with providing uncompensated care to the uninsured.

We filed suit, on behalf of the City of Chicago, to ensure the Trump administration follows the law and opens a special enrollment period in response to COVID-19. President Trump and his administration have no sound explanation for denying millions of uninsured Americans access to affordable health insurance when they need it most. The administration’s refusal to open a special enrollment period is unlawful.

The complaint and motion for a preliminary injunction requesting the court require the Trump administration to open a special enrollment period were filed on June 15, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In late-January 2021, the Biden administration announced that it will open a special enrollment period to allow Americans affected by the pandemic to enroll in health insurance.  The City of Chicago voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit challenging the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) refusal to open one under the Trump administration.

June 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives and 14 States filed Amici briefs in support

The House makes clear that the Trump administration’s refusal to open a special enrollment period violates the ACA’s requirement that HHS opens a special enrollment period when consumers face “exceptional circumstances” like a pandemic. And of the fourteen states that penned the brief, six run their own health care exchanges and have opened independent special enrollment periods in response to COVID-19.

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July 20, 2020

We received the government's reply filing

The administration’s filing makes clear that it lacks a sufficient rationale for unlawfully denying millions of uninsured Americans access to high-quality, affordable health insurance amid a once-in-a-century pandemic.

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February 3, 2021

Following the Biden admin's announcement that it will open a special enrollment period, we voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.

The Trump administration’s callous refusal to open a special enrollment period was an unlawful and inexcusable impediment for tens of thousands of Chicagoans — and millions of Americans — who needed access to high-quality, affordable health insurance amid this once-in-a-century pandemic. We’re proud of our fight to protect the Affordable Care Act from the Trump administration’s unlawful sabotage, and we commend the Biden administration for following the law and moving swiftly to open a COVID-19 special enrollment period.

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John Lewis

Senior Counsel

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions at the federal and state level.

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Robin Thurston

Managing Senior Counsel

Litigating challenges to unlawful actions, abuses of power, and threats to democracy on behalf of those who are harmed.

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Ben Seel

Counsel

Focusing on justice, national security, immigration, and health care issues.

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