Rep. Davis, advocates introduce legislation to address health insurance coverage gap

‘Easy Enrollment Program’ could cut number of uninsured in PA in half

HARRISBURG, May 3 – State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, today joined the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Pennie and SEIU Healthcare PA to introduce legislation that could make it easier for thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians to enroll in health insurance coverage.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored many of the old fault lines in our healthcare system,” Davis said. “Access to health care remains a critical barrier in our society. This legislation is an opportunity to knock down that barrier for more than 400,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians, more than 120,000 of whom are children, and help them enroll in healthcare coverage.”

Davis said H.B. 1030 could help to close the insurance gap by creating the Pennsylvania Easy Enrollment Program. It would allow Pennsylvanians to check a box on their state income tax returns to connect them to Pennie, the state’s health insurance marketplace, for a free evaluation to see if they qualify for a low-cost plan on the marketplace, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid.

"Every year, we talk to thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians who lack easy-to-understand information about the affordable coverage options available to them,” said Pennsylvania Health Access Network Executive Director Antoinette Kraus. “Adding simple questions to the tax filing process already completed by millions and then giving individuals personalized options creates a straightforward solution and makes it easier to get covered."

Davis said his bill would build on a similar law enacted in Maryland in 2019 with bipartisan support, which connected thousands of people in that state to health insurance coverage.

“Pennie’s job is to connect Pennsylvanians to coverage. That job is more important than ever before, especially with the new savings from the American Rescue Plan now live at,” said Zachary W. Sherman, Pennie’s executive director. “The Pennsylvania Easy Enrollment Program would provide the commonwealth with a unique opportunity to proactively engage with uninsured residents filing their taxes and would provide Pennie with a valuable tool in trying to reduce the number of uninsured Pennsylvanians.”

Advocates from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, a union of nurses and healthcare workers across the state, also said the bill could be just as important to caregivers.

“Homecare workers are paid just pennies for their life-saving work that has kept thousands of Pennsylvanians safe and healthy in their own homes during the pandemic. Often, they cannot afford the care they need to keep themselves healthy,” said Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “It is unacceptable that too many people in this country must worry about medical costs first, and their own lives second.”

House Bill 1030, which Davis was introducing Monday, is expected to go to the PA House Insurance Committee for review. Davis said he was hopeful the bill would receive bipartisan support before heading to the full House.

“This legislation would be a simple change that’s win-win for everyone by expanding health care to thousands of Pennsylvanians who need it,” Davis said. “I encourage my fellow legislators to support this bill and am calling on the House leadership to move it expeditiously so we can start helping Pennsylvanians access health care.”

Attention news organizations: Photos of today’s event can be found on Rep. Davis’ website. Video can be downloaded here.