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Looking Out for Your Health During the Coronavirus Crisis

We're defending the ACA health care law at a critical time

 jo ann jenkins  c e o of a a r p

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

En español | We've known from the beginning of this pandemic that older people and those with underlying health conditions face a higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19. That's why AARP has worked hard to provide you with the latest information and updates and to ensure that you have access to the health care you need to remain safe and healthy.

This week, for example, AARP filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the effort to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a challenge to the health care law's constitutionality. This is especially critical now. As a result of the pandemic, more than 36 million workers have filed unemployment claims over the past two months. A new study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 26.8 million people across the country will become uninsured due to loss of job-based health coverage if they don't sign up for other coverage. Fortunately, based on income and other factors, most of them (nearly 8 in 10) are eligible for subsidized coverage, either through Medicaid or through the ACA's marketplaces. As the coronavirus spread, AARP urged Congress to offer a special ACA open enrollment period. Meanwhile, some states are holding their own special open enrollments for a limited time.

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We're also calling on Congress to help older Americans in the next COVID-19 relief package, especially those in nursing homes and their families. What's happening in nursing homes is tragic. At least one third of COVID-19 deaths nationwide have been in long-term care facilities, and in some states it's more than half. Unless we do something, it's only going to get worse. While nursing home residents are on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, residents of assisted living facilities, which often lack the staff and equipment available at nursing homes, are at higher risk, too.

The good news is that, as a result of the social distancing we've been practicing these past few months, our efforts to bend the curve appear to be working. Some areas of the country are phasing in a reopening of their economies. Many doctors and hospitals are rescheduling procedures and surgeries that had been postponed because of the coronavirus. Many of us have maintained treatment of underlying health conditions by using telemedicine. And we've realized that while helpful, in many cases it is not a substitute for face-to-face visits with our doctors, and it cannot replace the need for some procedures, tests or surgeries. So we now face the dilemma of whether it's safe to go to the doctor or the hospital.

There is no clear-cut answer to this question, other than to say that caution must still be the driving force behind our behavior. We can't allow fear of getting COVID-19 to keep us from getting treatment for conditions that put us at higher risk in the first place, but we also cannot risk contracting the coronavirus, because the consequences can be deadly. Each person's situation is different, so it's important to consult with your doctor as to the progress that is occurring in your community, the precautions that are in place and the steps you need to take to be safe.

As we begin this next leg in our coronavirus journey, we must continue to be vigilant, to err on the side of caution and to be guided by facts over fear. At AARP we will continue to take this journey with you — fighting on your behalf; providing you with useful, relevant and trusted information; and looking out for your health.

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