The Biden administration is boosting purchases of coronavirus vaccines to deliver enough to protect 300 million Americans by the end of the summer.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will sign two executive actions Thursday designed to expand health care coverage amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as removing Trump administration restrictions on abortion access.
In his first steps to address health care access, Biden will direct the Department of Health and Human Services to open a special enrollment period for HealthCare.gov, the federally run insurance marketplaces, from Feb. 15 to May 15, giving Americans who lost their jobs and employer-based insurance during the pandemic a chance to sign up for coverage.
Former President Donald Trump resisted calls for a special enrollment period for people who became uninsured during the pandemic and repeatedly sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s signature health care reform law. The ACA, or Obamacare, provides health insurance to more than 23 million people.
President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)
“For President Biden, this is personal,” the White House said in a statement. “As we continue to battle COVID-19, it is even more critical that Americans have meaningful access to affordable care.”
Nearly 9 million uninsured Americans could get free or subsidized health insurance through the special enrollment period, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization.
Through an outreach campaign expected to include advertising and partnerships with local organizations, the administration hopes to enroll people who may not be aware they’re eligible for coverage.
The president will also direct federal agencies to reexamine policies that undermine Obamacare, make it difficult for Americans to enroll in Medicaid or ones that reduce affordability of coverage or protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Ending the ‘global gag rule’
Biden will also sign a memorandum to rescind the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule,” which bans U.S. funding for nongovernmental organizations abroad that provide abortion counseling or services.
Trump both restored and expanded the Mexico City Policy, which was started by the Reagan administration and has been turned off and on again depending on whether a Democrat or Republican holds the White House.
Biden will begin the process of undoing similar restrictions on domestic groups that receive federal family planning funds to serve uninsured and low-income populations.
Advocates for reproductive rights are pushing the new administration to go beyond simply reversing Trump administration actions affecting abortion services and put in place new protections and expanded services.
Tackling reproductive rights: Some of Biden’s goals are easier than others
Health care was a key issue for voters in the 2020 presidential election and helped Democrats win back a majority in the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms.
During the campaign, Biden didn’t go as far as some in the party wanted in promising changes to the Affordable Care Act. But he backed expanding insurance subsidies and adding a government-run option that would compete against the private plans offered in the marketplace.
The fate of the entire law, however, remains in the hands of the Supreme Court. In the latest legal challenge to Obamacare brought by Republicans, the court will decide whether Congress’ elimination in 2017 of the penalty imposed on consumers who refuse to buy health insurance invalidates the law.
Another Obamacare challenge: Supreme Court appears unlikely to topple Affordable Care Act
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