Biden to reopen ACA enrollment in first executive actions on health care

January 26, 2021, 9:08 PM UTC

Still in his first week in office, President Biden is already making plans to deliver on his campaign promise to increase health care for uninsured Americans. The President is expected to reopen and extend enrollment to the federal insurance marketplace as part of a flurry of health care-related executive actions Thursday, according to reporting in the Washington Post.

The coronavirus pandemic has heavily increased the demand for affordable health care as millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the fallout of the pandemic-induced recession.

Over the past year, a record number of Americans were left uninsured when temporary job losses became permanent, more people took on jobs that didn’t provide health coverage, and others simply couldn’t afford new coverage. As Fortune reported in October, the number of uninsured was set to grow even higher without an economic recovery or federal assistance.

The executive actions also aim to reverse former president Donald Trump’s four-year efforts to rescind the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Trump administration had previously cut the open enrollment period on federal exchanges from twelve weeks to six, a period that ended on December 15. Biden’s order will create a new special enrollment period to allow the uninsured to select policies that will remain open “for at least a few months”, the Washington Post reports.

A major factor in ensuring the actions are successful will be to publicize and provide federal funding directed towards advertising and outreach efforts.

This comes in the form of federal grants, which were cut tremendously under Trump. As Fortune reported in November, the Trump administration awarded grants totaling just $10 million for marketing and outreach in 2020 to the 36 states that rely on for enrollment. In 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, navigator grants totaled $63 million. 

Thursday’s actions are likely just the beginning of President Biden’s efforts to strengthen the Affordable Care Act—legislation he helped champion as vice president—and roll back on Trump-era actions that limited coverage options at a time when more Americans are losing their coverage each day. 

The President is also expected to sign orders that aim to bolster and expand access to Medicaid, which insures about 70 million low-income Americans, alongside several orders on abortion policy.

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