President Joe Biden is scheduled to take executive actions to reopen enrollment on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges. This order is part of a series of executive actions related to health care, taking a step to help uninsured Americans that his predecessor rejected.
The order will be Biden’s first step since taking office to help Americans gain health insurance, a prominent campaign goal that has assumed escalating significance as the pandemic has dramatized the need for affordable health care — and deprived millions of Americans coverage as they have lost jobs in the economic fallout.
Under one order, HealthCare.gov, the online insurance marketplace for Americans who cannot get affordable coverage through their jobs, will swiftly reopen for at least a few months. Open enrollment on the federal exchanges, which the Trump administration cut in half to six weeks, ended on December 15. The President has the power to reopen signups. However, former President Donald Trump refused to do so last year, despite heavy lobbying from elected officials of both parties and the health care industry. Eleven states that run their own Obamacare exchanges and the District of Columbia, allowed their uninsured residents to obtain coverage outside the usual time frame.
Increasing the number of insured Americans by strengthening the Affordable Care Act was at the heart of Biden’s health care campaign promises. However, his two main measures — creating a government-run public option and increasing Obamacare’s federal premium subsidies — will require Congress and face plenty of opposition. Reopening enrollment is a much easier lift.
The key to reopening enrollment will be publicizing it and providing help for people to sign up. The Trump administration slashed advertising by 90% and deeply cut funding for enrollment assistance — two measures Biden is expected to reverse. Unspent revenue from exchange user fees appears to have accumulated to more than $1 billion over fiscal years 2018 to 2020.
The upcoming measures will likely be the first of many efforts to bolster the Affordable Care Act and roll back Trump administration health care actions.