Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Finance ranking member Ron Wyden are pushing the Trump administration to make sure unemployment insurance checks get out within two weeks.
The Democrats suggested they may seek to use legislation to force a special enrollment period for the health insurance exchanges established under the 2010 health care law if the Trump administration does not act, in continuing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's something that we feel is very, very important. People need health care. There are lots of people who don't have health care, many of whom would qualify for the ACA, and we should open it," Schumer said Friday.
The New York Democrat, joined by Wyden, D-Ore., held a conference call with reporters to discuss the massive increases in jobless claims.
"We have been working on this, because now the administration has said money would be going to uninsured either through using the rebate checks or through the hospital fund, and to me it just looks like the administration is twisting itself in knots to come up with these far-fetched theories that don't get at the real problem," Wyden said of access to health insurance.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence indicated at a press briefing Thursday that there could be an effort to use federal funds to ensure hospitals are compensated for providing COVID-19 related care to the uninsured, as well as aid to individuals.
"We're going to work it out, so we're going to try and get for that certain group of people a cash payment," Trump said Thursday.
Trump also suggested that there could be assistance for insurance companies who opt to waive co-payments and other fees related to providing care for policyholders who contract the virus. Wyden said that people can't really rely on vague promises.
"So you know, the Senate Democrats pushed for specific aid to help people without health insurance, but Republicans objected during the negotiations," Wyden said. "Now, instead of ensuring all Americans can get access to treatment for COVID-19 or opening a special enrollment period to sign up for insurance, they're making promises that as of this morning those without insurance cannot count on."
As for the expanded unemployment benefits, Wyden said he was in his office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building awaiting word to states from the Department of Labor about making sure that the payments are expedited.
Schumer said that Democrats would be very vocal about making sure the Trump administration sends guidance and helps state unemployment agencies get funds out the door as quickly as possible.
"The administration must ensure that people get their new unemployment checks within two weeks," Schumer said.
Both senators noted that $1 billion has been allocated to help unemployment agencies ramp up to handle the millions of new claims.
"We can't afford do-overs here," Schumer said on the call. "If people don't get money into their pockets right away, they're going to have all kinds of problems."