WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden took the first step towards rebuilding Obamacare and expanding health care coverage and reverse some of the policies of former President Donald Trump in the process by using executive action on Thursday.
Mr. Biden signed an executive order for the Department of Health and Human Services to reopen the insurance enrollment website HealthCare.gov from Feb. 15 through May 15, giving an opportunity to Americans who lost their jobs and employer-based insurance during the pandemic to get new health coverage.
“There’s nothing new that we’re doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president,” Biden said in the Oval Office after signing the order. “As we continue to battle COVID-19, it’s even more critical Americans have meaningful access to health care.”
With the President’s actions, the nearly 9 million uninsured Americans could get free or subsidized health insurance during the special enrollment period. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment on how many people could sign up during that period.
Former President Donald Trump did not support a special enrollment period for people who became uninsured during the pandemic and made repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement for it. The ACA has provided health insurance to over 23 million people.
The President said he signed the actions to “undo the damage Trump has done.”
Mr. Biden is also directing federal agencies to reexamine policies that make it difficult for Americans to enroll in Medicaid or reduce affordability of coverage or protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Democrats are hoping the pandemic’s toll on health care and economy will translate to support for Mr. Biden’s agenda. An estimated 2-3 million people lost their health insurance over the course of the pandemic, upping the total to around 33 million Americans who are currently without health insurance.
During the campaign, Mr. Biden repeatedly called for a “public option,” a government-run alternative to private health insurance that Democrats say will bring costs down. As a part of his proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, the President included enhanced insurance subsidies but Republicans have been vocal about opposing it due to the bill’s high price tag.
Elsewhere Thursday, Mr. Biden reversed restrictions on abortion access domestically and abroad. The President’s move fulfilled a campaign promise to end the “Mexico City Policy”, a ban on US government funding for foreign nonprofits that perform or promote abortions. The Trump administration put the restrictions in place back in 2017 with a presidential memorandum.
The memorandum also directs the Health and Human Services Department to consider rescinding the Trump administration’s rule blocking health care providers in the Title X family planning program.