Biden to expand Affordable Care Act enrollment amid COVID-19 in new executive order

He will also address reproductive health in a presidential memorandum.

January 28, 2021, 5:30 AM

President Joe Biden will tackle the issue of health care Thursday with two executive actions aimed at expanding enrollment for the Affordable Care Act amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and addressing reproductive health, according to the White House.

The actions continue a series of executive moves by Biden in his first week in office, setting an ambitious tone for his administration on a number of policy areas.

On Thursday, Biden is expected to sign an executive order that will open a special enrollment period amid the pandemic that has already claimed the lives of nearly 430,000 Americans, according to a fact sheet outlining Biden's planned actions.

Through the executive order, the Department of Health and Human Service is expected to open a three-month enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15, on, allowing more Americans to sign up for health care as COVID-19 continues to engulf the country.

"Reliable and affordable access to health insurance doesn't just benefit families' health; it is a critical source of economic security and peace of mind for all," the administration argued in the fact sheet.

The executive action will seek to strengthen the Affordable Care Act Biden hopes to expand during his administration, as well as Medicaid, by asking agencies to "re-examine" their current policies that could undermine protections and access to care.

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response as US Vice President Kamala Harris looks on before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2021.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The action would be the president's first step to follow through on his 2020 campaign pledge to expand the Affordable Care Act in order to provide health care to all Americans as a "right, not a privilege."

Biden will also address the issue of reproductive health in a presidential memorandum Thursday, rescinding the "Mexico City Policy," often referred to as the global gag rule, which was expanded under President Donald Trump and which blocks U.S. funding to international non-profits that provide counseling or referrals for abortion.

Biden's move rolling back the rule, which is often expanded under Republican presidents, follows in the footsteps of his Democratic predecessors, former President Bill Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Biden's plans for the rule in her first White House Press Briefing on Jan. 20, to which she said the administration would have more to say about the policy in "the coming days."

Biden will also look to expand access to family planning and reproductive care for low-income individuals, and has asked the HHS to "take immediate action to consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program," under the memorandum.

Biden is expected to sign the actions alongside Vice President Kamala Harris Thursday afternoon, according the White House.

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