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, but the Republican refused, because he didn't want people turning to "Obamacare" for help during a crisis.
More than 2 million people have signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act's online marketplaces, taking advantage of the Biden administration's extended period for open enrollment, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Wednesday. That figure means total marketplace enrollment is probably at an all-time high, while the number of uninsured Americans may be at an all-time low.
Remember, after dramatic Obama-era improvements, the U.S. uninsured rate inched higher during the Trump era. Given the latest data, it seems awfully likely the trajectory has returned to an encouraging direction.
What's more, the progress is likely to continue: the current open-enrollment period won't close for another month.
In fact, pretty much all of the news related to health care coverage looks quite encouraging. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court recently shield the ACA from its latest Republican attack, but the open-enrollment data coincides with expansive new ACA benefits included in the Democrats' COVID relief package. Some will see their premiums cut in half, while millions will see their premiums fall to literally zero, thanks entirely to the investments in the American Rescue Plan.
That's working well, too: the Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that after the new ACA benefits kicked in on April 1, nearly 2 million consumers -- who already had coverage -- returned to the marketplace and reduced their monthly premiums.
Also last month, Biden and former President Barack Obama made a little news together, announcing that nearly 31 million Americans -- a record high -- now have health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
There are, however, some clouds on the horizon: the ACA-related benefits included in the American Rescue Plan are, at least for now, temporary. The White House and many congressional Democrats want to make the current benefits permanent, and such funding is very likely to be in the mix for the "human infrastructure" package taking shape in the Senate.
Watch this space.