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.
Two and a half million people so far have bought health insurance through the online marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act after the Biden administration allowed more time to enroll amid COVID-19, the White House said on Tuesday.... "The Biden-Harris Administration continues to do everything we can to make high quality health care more affordable and accessible," the White House said in a statement.
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. Indeed, this new 2.5 million figure appears to have pushed total marketplace enrollment to an all-time high.
In fact, pretty much all of the news related to health care coverage looks quite encouraging. Not only did the U.S. Supreme Court shield the ACA from its latest Republican attack a couple of months ago, but the open-enrollment data coincides with expansive new ACA 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 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 in June, 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. And that was before yesterday's good news.
There are, however, some clouds on the horizon. First and foremost, the special open enrollment period is nearly over: consumers have until this Sunday -- August 15 -- to take advantage of this opportunity.
What's more, 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 currently taking shape.
Watch this space.