President Joe Biden recently signed two executive actions aiming to strengthen Americans’ access to affordable healthcare and expand enrollment opportunities. It is one of Biden’s first several moves toward delivering on his campaign’s promise to bolster the landmark health reform law that he formerly advocated for as Vice President.
The executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider establishing a broad “Special Enrollment Period” and reassess rules and policies that undermine access to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid coverage. In quick response, the HHS announced a new enrollment period in the marketplace, which will begin on February 15, 2021 and run through May 15, 2021.
According to the White House, this three-month enrollment period is intended to “give Americans that need healthcare coverage during this global pandemic the opportunity to sign up.” As the healthcare marketplace has been inevitably essential throughout the fight against the novel coronavirus, millions have relied upon ACA subsidies and coverage that has included COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and overall treatment. These policies could have a significant impact by enabling millions of uninsured individuals, who have been faced with serious health complications and uncertainty during the pandemic, to enroll in coverage.
With the executive orders signed, agencies are directed to reexamine:
- Policies that undermine protections for people with preexisting conditions, including complications related to COVID-19;
- Demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the ACA that may reduce coverage or undermine the programs, including work requirements;
- Policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets for health insurance;
- Policies that make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA; and
- Policies that reduce affordability of coverage or financial assistance, including for dependents.
Additionally, President Biden’s memorandum on family planning and reproductive health asks the HHS to consider rescinding domestic rules under its Title X family planning program, which prohibits certain clinics from receiving federal funds for abortion-related services.
Changes, such as an extended special enrollment period, can be made swiftly. However, changes that require new rules or revisions, as well as notice-and-comment rulemaking processes can take weeks, if not months.
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