Biden Reopens Obamacare Open Enrollment for Pandemic-Stricken Americans

On Thursday, January 28, 2021, Joe Biden signed an executive order for a new 90-day enrollment period on Healthcare.gov to expand health care coverage. He has also reversed some ill implemented policies of the former President Donald Trump like giving people a chance to sign up for government-subsidized care and he has also lifted restrictions on abortion and family planning services. The immediate result of Biden’s order has led to the establishment of a special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15 during which the ACA-created health insurance marketplace will be reopened for new enrollees.

This order of Biden applies in the 36 states that use HealthCare.gov, thereby giving nearly 15 million Americans a second chance to sign up for health insurance. The remaining 14 states and the District of Columbia have their own health insurance marketplaces as well as enrollment rules, so these states are not covered under the special enrollment period. Biden has also directed federal agencies to reexamine policies that limit access to health care under Medicaid and the ACA and for people with pre-existing conditions. The 15 million uninsured people have the chance to benefit from the special enrollment period and as per the study of Kaiser Family Foundation, sixty percent or 8.9 million of those uninsured would receive financial help if they signed up for a health plan. The study also revealed that some 4 million people could get coverage for free.

Residents of the states that use the federal health care marketplace are allowed to sign up for coverage on HealthCare.gov once a year i.e. during the open enrollment period in the fall. The open enrollment period under the Trump administration was limited to just six weeks. During Donald Trump’s presidency, enrollment among new consumers every year decreased and according to Kaiser Family Foundation, this was mainly because of cuts made by Trump to funding for the marketing and outreach of the Affordable Care Act. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency responsible for implementing the government’s health care marketplace, is now planning to spend $50 million on promotions and outreach efforts during this 90-day special enrollment period created by Biden’s order.

The Affordable Care Act is currently facing challenges both in the legislature and in the courts, and the arguments have been heard by the Supreme Court in November related to a case that whether the individual mandate, a key part of the ACA, is unconstitutional or not. Several states along with the Trump administration argued against the single-payer mandate with the hope that the entire Affordable Care Act would be removed. However, the date for the decision has not yet been fixed.

With Americans still battling with Covid-19, it is critical that Americans have meaningful access to affordable care. A statement released by the White House said that reliable and affordable access to health insurance not just benefit families’ health but is also vital for economic security and peace of mind for all. Biden created a new enrollment period that will be available to Americans who need health care coverage and it is not yet specified that whether there would be restrictions or not. The trade group for health insurers, America’s Health Insurance Plans, welcomed the announcement and said that the executive order will create more ways for Americans to obtain essential health coverage for their overall well-being and peace of mind.

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