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Biden to sign orders to create special ACA enrollment period and rescind Trump abortion policies

The memorandum also directs federal agencies to review policies that undermine the ACA, Medicaid or the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesWin McNamee/Getty Images

President Biden will sign two executive orders on Thursday that aim to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act as well as expanding access to reproductive healthcare, the White House announced today.

The first order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to open a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act to run from February 15 to May 15, 2021. Americans who need health insurance will be able to sign up through HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace.

The second order that will be signed by Biden rescinds the global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, which bars foreign NGOs that offer abortion counseling or referrals from receiving funding from the U.S.

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The rule, which was initially introduced under the Reagan administration, has subsequently been rescinded and reinstated along party lines. Under Trump's administration, the policy was reinstated and expanded to include funding for HIV maternal and child health, malaria, nutrition and other programs.

Biden's memorandum also directs federal agencies to reexamine policies that undermine the ACA, Medicaid or the Health Insurance Marketplace, as well as those that make it more difficult or expensive to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA.

It specifically instructs HHS to consider rescinding a Trump-era rule that prohibits Title X federal funds from being used to provide abortion care or referrals, even when requested by the patient.

As a part of their reviewing process, the order asks agencies to consider additional actions that could be taken to strengthen and protect healthcare access.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

America's Health Insurance Plans applauded Biden's actions to ensure more Americans can receive healthcare coverage, especially during the pandemic.

In a statement, AHIP President and CEO Matt Eyles praised the creation of a special enrollment period and supported eliminating barriers to coverage for low-income individuals.

Reactions to the executive orders were not all positive, however, and Hadley Heath Manning, the policy director and health-policy expert for the Independent Women's Forum, said they miss the mark.

Instead of giving people more time to sign up for healthcare coverage, she suggests Biden focus on "transparency and choice for patients, as the Trump administration did."

THE LARGER TREND

In just over a week since assuming office, President Biden has signed 21 executive orders, including a handful that directly target the response to COVID-19.

These orders authorize the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up supply productions, ensure a data-driven response to the pandemic, expand access to care and treatment for COVID-19, and mandate that masks be worn on planes, trains and intercity buses.

Biden also announced this week that he is increasing COVID-19 vaccine distribution to have 200 million doses delivered by the end of summer. This is an additional 100 million doses Biden set as his goal for his first 100 days in office.

He is also trying to push a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan through Congress.

ON THE RECORD

"After four years of attempts to strip health care from millions of Americans, President Biden will sign two executive actions that will begin to restore and strengthen Americans' access to quality, affordable health care," the White House announcement said.

"The Biden-Harris administration will re-open enrollment to the Health Insurance Marketplace, take additional steps to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and protect women's health."

"Every American deserves access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage and high-quality care," said Matt Eyles, the president and CEO of AHIP. "We applaud President Biden for his swift actions to create more pathways for Americans to obtain coverage that is so essential to their health, wellbeing and peace of mind."

"Policymakers understand that the reason the Affordable Care Act instituted an open enrollment period in the first place was to discourage consumers from signing up for coverage only when they get sick," said Hadley Heath Manning, the policy director and health policy expert for the Independent Women's Forum.

"Of course, the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic have put many Americans in difficult and uncertain circumstances regarding their health and financial security. That said, reopening the open enrollment window is not likely to mitigate this, as qualifying life events such as job loss always trigger an opportunity to enroll in ACA coverage. What Americans really need are better, more affordable options for health insurance – options destroyed by the ACA – not just more time to sign up."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org