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What is in Biden’s Obamacare executive order?

President Biden has instructed HHS to reopen enrollment for the Affordable Care Act through the federally run health insurance marketplace HealthCare.gov.

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What is in Biden’s Obamacare executive order?
NICHOLAS KAMM AFP

On Thursday President Joe Biden signed two healthcare-related executive actions “to undo the damage Trump has done" reversing policies put into place under the previous administration.  Biden continued "There's nothing new that we are doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president."

By signing the “Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act” Biden is following through on his campaign promise to bolster President Obama’s landmark health reform law, also known as Obamacare. The executive action creates a special enrollment period allowing Americans to sign up who have lost employer-based health insurance during the pandemic. It also directs federal agencies to reexamine current policies that may undermine the Affordable Care Act.

Reopening the health insurance market place

Under the Trump administration open enrollment on federal exchanges was reduced to six weeks, cutting the time in half. Despite lobbying from both parties and the healthcare industry Trump refused to create a special enrollment period during the pandemic. This would have allowed for those Americans who lost their insurance when they became unemployed gain access to the federal health insurance marketplace.

The last enrollment period ended 15 December, but now those who have lost, or may yet lose, their employer-based health insurance will have an opportunity to sign up for coverage. The special enrollment period will go from 15 February to 15 May. "As we continue to battle COVID-19, it is even more critical that Americans have meaningful access to affordable care," a White House fact sheet reads.

Strengthening Obamacare and Medicaid

Since its inception the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been under assault by Republican lawmakers. Despite the thousand cuts that it has received since it was enacted in 2010 it has managed to survive. During the first two years of Trump’s presidency with unified GOP control of Congress the ACA almost met its end. However community organizing to put pressure on lawmakers and one thumbs down from John McCain helped ensure its survival.

But the threats to the ACA have not gone away, its legality is pending in a case the Supreme Court heard in November. It looks unlikely the Supreme Court will strike down the law with a decision expected sometime before the summer. Another case could be heard on the legality of work requirements for Medicaid recipients. The Trump administration granted waivers to several states to allow work requirements for Medicaid. A measure that would limit the number of people with access to affordable care.

Biden has directed federal agencies to reconsider the work requirements rule along with other polices the Trump administration put into place that weakened the healthcare law and hindered how it works. He wants agencies to review measures that make it more difficult to enroll in either the ACA or Medicaid and policies that reduce affordability of coverage or financial assistance, including for dependents. As well he is directing agencies to examine policies that undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to covid-19, and also consider whether additional actions are needed to strengthen and protect access to health care.