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What Joe Biden’s Obamacare Executive Orders Mean for Families

The Affordable Care Act has an ally in the White House again.

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The Supreme Court and John McCain’s thumb have kept the Republican Party from completely destroying the Affordable Care Act, but they have chipped away at it with litigation and executive action. But there’s a new president, and yesterday Joe Biden signed a pair of executive orders designed to restore and strengthen the implementation of Obamacare — and people’s access to it.

Two of Biden’s biggest healthcare campaign promises—creating a government-run public option and increasing federal premium subsidies for Obamacare plans—require Congressional action, but the orders he signed yesterday have big implications for the uninsured, women, and low-income Americans. Here’s what they will do.

Reopen ACA Enrollment 2021 on the Federal Obamacare Exchange

The Department of Health and Human Services will reopen the federal health insurance exchange from February 15 to March 15. That means that Americans who don’t have insurance and didn’t sign up during the last enrollment period, which ended December 15, can sign up for new policies and potentially receive a federal subsidy to pay for them.

Thirty-six states rely on the federal exchange, but it’s likely that many if not all of the 14 others will hold concurrent enrollment periods.

Reinvigorate Federal Outreach Efforts

The Trump administration did everything it could to minimize public outreach efforts around the ACA. The Biden administration has promised to reverse course with a “robust outreach” campaign including paid advertising, partnerships with community organizations, and direct outreach to Americans.

Restore the Title X Family Planning Program

The Hyde Amendment ensures that federal money doesn’t pay directly for abortion services, and it will take an act of Congress to change that. The Trump administration further restricted federal money disbursed under Title X, a family planning program for low-income Americans, prohibiting recipients of those funds from referring patients to abortion providers. This rule was particularly harmful to families, as more than half of women who get abortions are mothers.

The practical outcome of this rule was that lots of low-income healthcare providers lost federal funding because they refused to stop referring women to abortion providers. Under the terms of this executive order, that funding may now be restored.

Prepare to Eliminate Work Requirements for Medicaid

The Trump administration opened the door to states requiring low-income Americans to work in order to receive their Medicaid benefits, a policy that has the practical effect of decreasing the number of people who receive Medicaid. Some last-minute chicanery by the Trump administration and an upcoming Supreme Court case on their legality complicated the situation for Biden, but his executive order did direct the Department of Health and Human Services to review the work requirements for Medicaid that states like Arkansas and New Hampshire wish to implement.