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Biden's ACA special enrollment period brought coverage to millions

Biden's decision to create a special ACA enrollment period proved to be a striking success. It's part of the ACA's very good year.

Just one week after his inauguration, President Joe Biden did what his predecessor would not: He issued an executive order to create a special enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act, citing a need created by the pandemic. Donald Trump was expected to do something similar last year, but the Republican refused, because he didn't want people turning to "Obamacare" for help during a crisis.

Updating our earlier coverage, Biden's decision to do the right thing proved to be a striking success. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

Nearly 3 million consumers took advantage of a special six-month period to sign up for subsidized health insurance coverage made more affordable by the COVID-19 relief law, President Joe Biden said Wednesday.... 'That's 2.8 million families who will have more security, more breathing room, and more money in their pocket if an illness or accident hits home,' Biden said in a statement. 'Altogether, 12.2 million Americans are actively enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act — an all-time high.'

Remember, after dramatic Obama-era improvements, the U.S. uninsured rate inched higher during the Donald Trump's presidency. With 2.8 million signing up for coverage, the trajectory is likely to soon point in an encouraging direction again.

As HuffPost's Jonathan Cohn recently added, "So this is what it looks like when the people in charge of 'Obamacare' want to enroll as many people as possible."

What's more, all things considered, the ACA is having a very good year. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court shield the ACA from its latest Republican attack a few months ago, but the open enrollment data coincides with expansive new benefits included in the Democrats' Covid relief package. Some have seen their premiums cut in half, while many have seen their premiums fall to literally zero, thanks entirely to the investments in the president's American Rescue Plan.

There are, however, some clouds on the horizon. As regular readers know, the ACA-related benefits included in the American Rescue Plan are, at least for now, temporary. The White House and Democratic leaders want to make the current benefits permanent, and they intend to include funding for this in the Build Back Better infrastructure bill taking shape on Capitol Hill.

Whether a small group of centrist and conservative Democrats will allow the legislation to proceed remains an open question. Watch this space.