Trump rejects reopening Obamacare enrollment during pandemic — and sets up red states for disaster
US President Donald Trump holds a press conference on COVID-19 in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 13, 2020. AFP / SAUL LOEB

On Tuesday, Politico reported that President Donald Trump is refusing calls from health care experts and insurers to reopen the Affordable Care Act's enrollment period amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"President Donald Trump and administration officials recently said they were considering relaunching, the federal enrollment site, and insurers said they privately received assurances from health officials overseeing the law's marketplace," wrote Susannah Luthi. "However, a White House official on Tuesday evening told POLITICO the administration will not reopen the site for a special enrollment period, and that the administration is 'exploring other options.'"

Under the law, similar to insurance plans provided through employers, Obamacare's health insurance exchanges hold open enrollment periods at the end of each year, where people can apply for or change their coverage. Outside of these open enrollment periods, only a qualifying life event, like moving, losing your job, getting married, or a death in the family, makes you eligible to change coverage on the exchanges.

Because of Trump's decision, millions of people who currently have no insurance and might want to get coverage amid the national emergency are ineligible to enroll.

The end result of this will likely be a widening gulf in the levels of coverage and care experienced in Democratic- and Republican-controlled states. Several states, mostly under Democratic control, have their own state-level insurance marketplaces outside of the federal system, and many of them have announced they will be holding special enrollment periods. Any state that uses the federal system — many of which are under Republican control — will be left out.

The Trump administration is also still moving forward with supporting a GOP-backed state lawsuit to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act, which could throw tens of millions of people off their coverage and throw the entire insurance market into chaos if the Supreme Court rules in its favor next spring.