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Biden administration announces 500,000 new registrations to HealthCare.gov

So that’s what it looks like when the people in charge of the Affordable Care Act want it to reach as many people as possible.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Wednesday that between mid-February and the end of March, more than 500,000 Americans had signed up for coverage on HealthCare.gov, the federal online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. for people who buy insurance on their own.

This period corresponds to the first six weeks of a “special enrollment period” created by the Biden administration. Normally, enrollment in HealthCare.gov is limited to the last few weeks of the calendar year, as is generally the case with employer policies.

People who lose coverage due to unemployment, divorce, or other major life events have still been able to get coverage at any time, even if it is outside of the normal enrollment window. But with the pandemic underscoring the importance of healthcare and so many people out of work, the Biden administration has decided to reopen registration to all comers.

“Access to quality and affordable health care is essential – especially as we tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said on Wednesday.

Initially, the Biden administration said HealthCare.gov would be open for general registration until May 15. He later said the period would extend until August 15.

It makes a difference to welcome people into ACA health coverage rather than restricting it while trying to overturn the law completely.
Larry Levitt, Executive Vice President of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

The Biden administration did more than just facilitate registration. He also aggressively promoted coverage, through online advertising and broadcast, to reach people who are eligible for heavily discounted insurance but might not know it. Promotions frequently tout new assistance that is now available due to the US bailout, the COVID-19 relief package that Democrats in Congress adopted and signed by Biden in March.

Of the roughly 29 million people without health insurance today, about 6.8 million are now eligible for premium-free coverage on HealthCare.gov, according to HHS estimates, while 1.3 million could get policies for less than $ 50 a month. (Others are eligible for free or discounted coverage through Covered California, NY State of Health, and other state-run versions of Markets.)

Notably, the 500,000 registrations reported by HHS were all from people who signed up before the new help became available. (They’ll still be able to get bigger discounts, just like those who’ve already signed up for coverage.)

“These are truly impressive numbers, far greater than what you would typically see outside of the annual open enrollment period,” Sabrina corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University, told HuffPost. “And that’s before the enhanced American Rescue Plan premium tax credits went into effect. I think we can expect registrations to increase even more from here. ”

Biden’s determination to strengthen and promote the Affordable Care Act represents a clear departure from the approach taken by former President Donald Trump to manage “Obamacare.” He spent the first year of his administration trying to repeal the law, and although that effort failed, he described the law as a “failure” that “crumbled” and cut funding for the promotion.

Trump also called on his administration to rewrite regulations that supported alternative forms of insurance, such as so-called ‘short-term / limited-time’ plans, which lacked the coverage guarantees of the Affordable Care Act for women. people with pre-existing illnesses.

While the actual impact of these changes has been mixed, and some may have increased enrollments, overall the number of people without insurance soared while he was president, after hitting historic lows under the leadership of former President Barack Obama.

“With the increased premium help in the US bailout and a new outreach effort, the Biden administration has an opportunity here to reverse the trend of rising numbers of uninsured people that we have seen in the United States. Trump years, ” Larry Levitt, executive vice president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, told HuffPost. “It makes a difference to welcome people into ACA health coverage rather than restrict it while trying to overturn the law completely.”

Biden, who called the Affordable Care Act a “big fucking problem,” said he wanted to continue building on the program – eventually, allowing people covered by an employer to buy policies market at reduced prices when they are cheaper, and by introducing a “public option” that would offer Medicare-type insurance to those who want it, and asking the federal government to negotiate lower prices for drugs with the public. manufacturers.

Biden may take certain actions through regulation. According to a recent report by Amy Lotven of Inside Health Policy, a change, a solution to the so-called “family problem” that prevents the spouses and children of some low-wage workers from obtaining insurance, is currently in the works. study.

The most important steps would still require legislation. Democrats in Congress have talked about including some of these measures, starting with prescription drug legislation, in upcoming economic bills. But each of them would involve significant political compromises and political challenges.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article gave incorrect dates for the end of the special listing.

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