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Biden to Reopen 'Obamacare' Markets    01/27 06:16

   Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Joe Biden plans to reopen the 
HealthCare.gov insurance markets for a special sign-up opportunity geared to 
people needing coverage in the coronavirus pandemic.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Joe Biden plans 
to reopen the HealthCare.gov insurance markets for a special sign-up 
opportunity geared to people needing coverage in the coronavirus pandemic.

   Biden is expected to sign an executive order Thursday, said two people 
familiar with the plan, whose details were still being finalized. They spoke on 
the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the 
pending order ahead of a formal announcement.

   Although the number of uninsured Americans has grown because of job losses 
due to the economic hit of COVID-19, the Trump administration resisted calls to 
authorize a "special enrollment period" for people uninsured in the pandemic. 
Failure to repeal and replace "Obamacare" as he repeatedly vowed to do was one 
of former President Donald Trump's most bitter disappointments. His 
administration continued trying to find ways to limit the program or unravel it 
entirely. A Supreme Court decision on Trump's final legal challenge to the 
Affordable Care Act is expected this year.

   The White House had no comment on Biden's expected order, but the two people 
familiar with the plan said the new enrollment period would not go into effect 
immediately. Instead, the White House wants to provide time for the Department 
of Health and Human Services to mount a marketing campaign, and for insurers to 
get ready for an influx of new customers.

   The Obama-era health care law covers more than 23 million people through a 
mix of subsidized private insurance sold in all states, and expanded Medicaid 
adopted by 38 states, with Southern states being the major exception. Coverage 
is available to people who don't have job-based health insurance, with the 
Medicaid expansion geared to those with low incomes.

   Biden's order would directly affect HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance 
marketplace currently serving 36 states. The marketplace concluded a successful 
annual sign-up season in December, with enrollment for 2021 growing by about 
7%. Final numbers for this year that include insurance markets directly run by 
the states will be available soon.

   Opening the insurance markets is also likely to result in higher Medicaid 
enrollment, since people who qualify for that program are automatically 
referred.

   The special sign-up opportunity is only a down payment on health insurance 
for Biden, who has promised to build on former President Barack Obama's health 
law to push the U.S. toward coverage for all. For that he'd need congressional 
approval, and opposition to the health law still runs deep among Republicans.

   White House press secretary Jen Psaki signaled Tuesday that Biden is also 
looking at limiting or reversing Trump administration actions that allowed 
states to impose work requirements for able-bodied low-income adults as a 
condition of getting Medicaid. Such rules are seen as a way to cull the program 
rolls.

   "President Biden does not believe, as a principle, it should be difficult 
... for people to gain access to health care," she said. "He's not been 
supportive in the past, and is not today, of putting additional restrictions in 
place."

   Of some 28 million uninsured Americans before the pandemic, the nonpartisan 
Kaiser Family Foundation estimates, more than 16 million were eligible for some 
form of subsidized coverage through the health law.

   Experts agree that number of uninsured people has risen because of layoffs, 
perhaps by 5 million to 10 million, but authoritative estimates await 
government studies due later this year.

   Biden's expected order was first reported by The Washington Post.

 
 
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