Biden Expands Enrollment in Affordable Care Act Amid COVID-19
Contracts under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act offer taxpayer-subsidized coverage regardless of medical history or pre-existing conditions, such as COVID-19.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered the public health insurance markets to reopen for a special registration window, giving uninsured Americans a safe haven as the spread of COVID-19 persists dangerously high and vaccines are not yet widely available.
Biden signed an executive order ordering HealthCare.gov insurance markets to accept new claims for subsidized benefits, which Donald Trump’s administration refused to do. He also called on his administration to consider overturning other Trump health care policies, including restrictions on abortion counseling and imposing work requirements on low-income people. receiving Medicaid.
“There is nothing new we are doing here other than restore the Affordable Care Act and restore Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president,” Biden said as he signed the directives in the office. oval. He said he was canceling “my predecessor’s attack on women’s health.”
These actions were just the first steps for Biden, who vowed to develop former President Barack Obama’s health care law to achieve a goal of coverage for all. As Biden dismisses the idea of a government-run system that Senator Bernie Sanders has pushed into his “Medicare for All” proposal, its more centrist approach will require congressional membership. But opposition to “Obamacare” runs deep among Republicans.
The most tangible near-term impact of Biden’s orders will come from the reopening of healthCare.gov insurance markets, as coverage declined in economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic. It is executive action and no legislation is required.
The new “special registration period” will begin on February 15 and end on May 15, the White House said. It will be coupled with a promotional campaign and an appeal to states that operate their own insurance markets to match the federal listing opportunity.
The Biden administration has plenty of resources for marketing, said Karen Pollitz, health insurance expert at the Nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. The foundation estimates that the Trump administration has not spent about $ 1.2 billion in user fees collected from insurers to help fund the functioning of the markets.
“The reason it was not spent is that the Trump administration has spent its time in office cutting services that support consumer registration,” Pollitz said. “During that time, the user fee income was coming in, (but) they weren’t allowed to spend it on anything other than market operations.”
Created under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, the markets offer taxpayer-subsidized coverage regardless of a person’s medical history or pre-existing conditions, including COVID-19.
Biden also ordered the immediate reversal of a federal policy that prohibits taxpayer funding of international health care organizations that promote or provide abortions. Known as Mexico City politicsit can be turned on or off depending on whether Democrats or Republicans control the White House. Abortion rights advocates call it the “global gag rule”.
The new president’s signing of a growing stack of executive orders has increasingly drawn criticism from Republicans and also some of his allies, especially after Democrats blasted Trump for acting out of his way. own boss. Biden’s team says he looks to Congress for major legislation but believes that some actions are crucial in the meantime.
Some guidelines he issued on Thursday could take months to be implemented.
He called on the Department of Health and Human Services to consider repealing Trump regulations that prohibit federally-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions.
The HHS will also review a Trump administration policy that allows states to impose work requirements as a condition for low-income people to obtain Medicaid health insurance. The work demands were blocked by federal courts, which found they had led to thousands of people losing coverage and violating Medicaid’s legal charge to provide medical services. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the question.
And Biden ordered HHS to review Trump’s policies that could compromise protection for people with health problems, such as a rule making it easier to sell short-term health insurance plans that don’t have to cover medical conditions. pre-existing.
Such changes cannot happen overnight. Rescinding a federal regulation requires a new regulation, which must follow an established legal process that involves considering the different aspects of an issue.
Trump’s former health policy adviser Brian Blase said the Biden administration must be careful not to reject certain policies intended to help middle-class people who are not eligible for financial assistance under Obama’s law.
“Obamacare plans are generally only attractive to people who receive large grants to purchase them,” Blase said. He cited a Trump policy that allows employers to provide workers with tax-free money to purchase individual plans.
The abortion-related actions immediately garnered praise for Biden from women’s rights groups, as well as condemnation from social and religious conservatives. Under President Trump, abortion opponents had free rein to try to rewrite federal policy, but now the political pendulum has turned back. Trump’s restrictions on abortion counseling led Planned Parenthood affiliates to quit the federal family planning program.
Biden campaigned to repeal long-standing federal bans on taxpayer funding for most abortions, but that was not part of Thursday’s orders. A shift of this magnitude to a group of laws called The Hyde Amendment would require congressional approval.
Biden’s candidate for health secretary, California attorney general Xavier Becerra, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate, but the White House has said that will not prevent health agencies from immediately getting to work on the president’s directives.
The idea of reopening Obamacare’s health insurance markets during the pandemic has received broad support from consumer organizations, doctors and businesses. The leading professional group of insurers, US Health Insurance Plans, applauded Biden’s decision.
As the number of uninsured Americans increased due to job losses in the pandemic, the Trump administration has resisted calls to reopen HealthCare.gov. Failure to repeal and replace Obamacare was one of the former president’s bitterest disappointments. His administration continued to try to find ways to limit the program or untangle it entirely. A decision of the Supreme Court on Trump’s latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is expected this year.
Experts agree that the number of uninsured people has increased due to layoffs in the coronavirus economy, but authoritative estimates await government studies expected later this year. While some estimates cite 5 to 10 million newly uninsured people, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says its analysis suggests a smaller number.
Nonetheless, the CBO predicts that nearly 32 million Americans are uninsured and of these, about 2 in 3 are eligible for some sort of subsidized coverage.
The Obama-era health care law covers more than 23 million people through a mix of subsidized private insurance sold in all states, and a Medicaid extension passed by 38 states.
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