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Image: A man fills out an information card during an Affordable Care Act outreach event
A man fills out an information card during an Affordable Care Act outreach event hosted by Planned Parenthood for the Latino community in Los Angeles on Sept. 28, 2013.Jonathan Alcorn / Reuters file

Biden's ACA special enrollment period continues to pay off

As one observer put it, "So this is what it looks like when the people in charge of 'Obamacare' want to enroll as many people as possible."


Last spring, as the coronavirus crisis first started to intensify, the Trump administration considered creating a special open-enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act. As regular readers know, this was generally seen as a no-brainer, but the Republican White House balked anyway, to the surprise of nearly everyone involved in the process.

As Politico reported at the time, the decision appeared to be largely political: Team Trump didn't want to turn to "Obamacare" to help people in a crisis.

That was then; this is now.

About a week after Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden signed an executive order, re-opening the marketplace. The Hill reported this morning that the policy is working as intended.

The Biden administration's special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act has seen almost 940,000 Americans sign up for ObamaCare coverage this year. Officials released the updated numbers on Thursday showing that between Feb. 15 and April 30, nearly 940,000 people have enrolled under the extra signup period instituted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note, of the nearly 940,000 American consumers who've taken advantage of the special enrollment period, roughly half signed up for ACA coverage in the month of April.

These are heartening numbers, but they actually understate the scope of the good news. As the New York Times recently noted, "The new enrollment figures cover the 36 states that use to run their health insurance marketplaces. They do not include Americans enrolling in coverage in the 14 states and District of Columbia that manage their own markets, many of which also have extended enrollment periods this year."

What's more, this good news coincides with the 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 also announced this morning 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.

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

Quite right. As we've discussed, the issue is one of political will. Donald Trump and his team could've taken these steps more than a year ago. The options were on the table to create new open-enrollment periods, alert the public to the coverage opportunities, make premiums even more affordable, and so on.

But the Republican administration didn't want to, so it didn't.

Team Biden, on the other hand, not only created a new enrollment period, the Democratic administration also launched an "ad blitz" and forged "partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups" on this -- steps his recent predecessor refused to consider.

The current administration wants more Americans to get coverage they can afford, and it's taken effective steps to make that happen. The results speak for themselves.