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Administration

HELP IS ON THE WAY: President Biden Signs Historic American Rescue Plan Into Law

President Biden, Democrats Deliver Essential Pandemic Relief, Critical Health Care Expansion

Washington, DC — President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law today, delivering a lifeline to Americans who have been battling the COVID-19 pandemic for a year. The American Rescue Plan includes desperately needed pandemic relief and historic health care provisions to lower costs, expand coverage, and address racial inequities in care. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“The American Rescue Plan is a historic victory for Americans who have been struggling through this pandemic for the last year. Thanks to President Biden, real relief is on the way. Americans will feel the impact of this legislation in their lives, and it will help pull us out of this pandemic. The American Rescue Plan is the boldest expansion of health care in a decade. It builds on the Affordable Care Act by expanding coverage, lowering heath care costs, and addressing racial disparities. Despite overwhelming support in both red and blue states, not a single Republican voted for the American Rescue Plan. Republicans voted against shots in arms, cash in families’ pockets, and reopening schools. President Biden and Democrats in Congress are the ones who put the health and safety of Americans first and delivered on their promises. Voters won’t forget who helped pull them out of this pandemic.”

BACKGROUND:

The American Rescue Plan Will Expand Coverage, Dramatically Reduce Health Care Costs For Americans

As part of the American Rescue Plan, Democrats included major provisions to lower health care costs and expand coverage, building on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation will lower premiums for people purchasing coverage through the ACA marketplaces and expand access to financial assistance for more middle-class families. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan includes robust financial incentives for the 14 states that have not yet implemented Medicaid expansion. 

Making health insurance more affordable and accessible is especially important as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic and millions have lost their jobs and their health insurance. Measures to increase affordability also reduce racial disparities in health care access. Despite significant progress after the implementation of the ACA, Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than white adults to have low incomes and face financial barriers to receiving care.

Lower Costs: 

Increasing financial assistance on the ACA marketplaces means more people will be able to get the affordable coverage they need during the pandemic. Similar legislation previously passed by the House would lower costs for more than 10 million Americans and provide affordable options for uninsured Americans at a time when access to health care is paramount. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.3 million uninsured people will gain coverage as a result of these provisions alone. 

  • Guarantee coverage that costs less than 8.5 percent of income. This legislation lowers the cost of premiums for Americans purchasing coverage through the ACA marketplaces, ensuring enrollees have the option to purchase health care for less than 8.5 percent of their income for the next two years. 
  • Make coverage more affordable by temporarily expanding the eligibility for premium tax credits above 400 percent of the federal poverty level — roughly $51,000 for a single person or $105,000 for a family of four. Under current law, families earning just above 400 percent of the federal poverty level spend an average of 15 percent of their incomes on health insurance. According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: 
    • The average 45-year-old earning $60,000 will save $86 in monthly premiums. 
    • A 60-year-old couple with a household income of $75,000 will save $1,389 in monthly premiums. 
    • A family of four with a household income of $120,000 will save $595 in monthly premiums. 
  • Improve affordability for low- and middle-income Americans by increasing the size of the tax credits for all income brackets for the next two years. This means a typical family of four with a household income of $75,000 will save $248 on monthly premiums, while a single adult earning $30,000 will save $110 per month. 
  • Eliminate premiums in the exchanges for people earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $19,000 for a single person and $39,000 for a family of four) and for those receiving unemployment insurance in 2021. 

Expanded Coverage:

In addition to providing affordable coverage options for millions of uninsured Americans through the ACA, the American Rescue Plan provides robust financial incentives for the 14 states that have not yet implemented Medicaid expansion. Research confirms that Medicaid expansion increases access to care, improves financial security, and leads to better health outcomes. Medicaid expansion has played a vital role in reducing racial disparities in health care access and has served as a critical safety net during the pandemic. 

An estimated four million uninsured adults — including 640,000 frontline workers— could gain coverage if the remaining holdout states adopted expansion. Importantly, people of color make up nearly 60 percent of this group. 

HISTORIC VOTE: Democrats in Congress Pass Vital Pandemic Relief, Most Significant Health Care Reform in a Decade

American Rescue Plan Heads to President Biden’s Desk

Washington, DC — Today, Democrats in the House passed the Senate version of the American Rescue Plan, sending desperately needed pandemic relief and historic health care reform to President Biden’s desk. The American Rescue Plan includes measures to lower health care costs, expand coverage, and address inequities in care. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“Democrats in Congress have delivered a historic victory to Americans battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Rescue Plan has broad bipartisan support across the country because it will put money into the pockets of families struggling with the health and economic consequences of the pandemic, ensure more people get vaccinated, and help safely reopen schools and the economy. After years of Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act, the American Rescue Plan includes the most significant health care reform in more than a decade, building on the ACA to provide lower health insurance premiums for millions, get more Americans covered, and help address racial inequities. While Republicans continue to oppose desperately needed pandemic relief, Democrats are delivering on their promises and enacting policies that will have a huge impact on the daily lives of Americans.”

BACKGROUND:

The American Rescue Plan Will Expand Coverage, Dramatically Reduce Health Care Costs For Americans

As part of the American Rescue Plan, Democrats included major provisions to lower health care costs and expand coverage, building on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation will lower premiums for people purchasing coverage through the ACA marketplaces and expand access to financial assistance for more middle-class families. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan includes robust financial incentives for the 14 states that have not yet implemented Medicaid expansion. 

Making health insurance more affordable and accessible is especially important as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic and millions have lost their jobs and their health insurance. Measures to increase affordability also reduce racial disparities in health care access. Despite significant progress after the implementation of the ACA, Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than white adults to have low incomes and face financial barriers to receiving care.

Lower Costs: 

Increasing financial assistance on the ACA marketplaces means more people will be able to get the affordable coverage they need during the pandemic. Similar legislation previously passed by the House would lower costs for more than 10 million Americans and provide affordable options for uninsured Americans at a time when access to health care is paramount. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.3 million uninsured people will gain coverage as a result of these provisions alone. 

  • Guarantee coverage that costs less than 8.5 percent of income. This legislation lowers the cost of premiums for Americans purchasing coverage through the ACA marketplaces, ensuring enrollees have the option to purchase health care for less than 8.5 percent of their income for the next two years. 
  • Make coverage more affordable by temporarily expanding the eligibility for premium tax credits above 400 percent of the federal poverty level — roughly $51,000 for a single person or $105,000 for a family of four. Under current law, families earning just above 400 percent of the federal poverty level spend an average of 15 percent of their incomes on health insurance. According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: 
    • The average 45-year-old earning $60,000 will save $86 in monthly premiums. 
    • A 60-year-old couple with a household income of $75,000 will save $1,389 in monthly premiums. 
    • A family of four with a household income of $120,000 will save $595 in monthly premiums. 
  • Improve affordability for low- and middle-income Americans by increasing the size of the tax credits for all income brackets for the next two years. This means a typical family of four with a household income of $75,000 will save $248 on monthly premiums, while a single adult earning $30,000 will save $110 per month. 
  • Eliminate premiums in the exchanges for people earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $19,000 for a single person and $39,000 for a family of four) and for those receiving unemployment insurance in 2021. 

Expanded Coverage:

In addition to providing affordable coverage options for millions of uninsured Americans through the ACA, the American Rescue Plan provides robust financial incentives for the 14 states that have not yet implemented Medicaid expansion. Research confirms that Medicaid expansion increases access to care, improves financial security, and leads to better health outcomes. Medicaid expansion has played a vital role in reducing racial disparities in health care access and has served as a critical safety net during the pandemic. 

An estimated four million uninsured adults — including 640,000 frontline workers— could gain coverage if the remaining holdout states adopted expansion. Importantly, people of color make up nearly 60 percent of this group. 

NEW REPORT: American Rescue Plan Will Help Women Recover From Pandemic

Washington, DC — Today, Protect Our Care released a new report detailing how the expansion of the Affordable Care Act included the American Rescue Plan will help women recover from the pandemic and improve their health care access for years to come. The American Rescue Plan provides desperately needed pandemic relief and key health care provisions that will lower health care costs, expand coverage, and address inequities in care. 

REPORT: Women & The American Rescue Plan

“Women have been disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women are both on the front lines of responding to the crisis as health care workers and on the front lines at home. The pandemic has caused a surge of women leaving the workforce to care for children, leaving many without health insurance,” said Protect Our Care Communications Director Anne Shoup. “Congress must pass the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s COVID relief package that includes historic health care provisions to expand coverage and lower costs while addressing stark inequities in health care that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. This report shows making health insurance more affordable and accessible is critical as we battle the pandemic, and just as the ACA did a decade ago, the American Rescue Plan will have profound impacts on women’s health care access and outcomes for years to come.”

Senate Passes American Rescue Plan Improving Health Care and Providing Essential Pandemic Lifeline for Americans

Historic Legislation Contains Most Significant Health Care Reform in a Decade

Washington, DC — Today, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan, providing desperately needed pandemic relief and historic measures to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. The American Rescue Plan includes key health care provisions that will lower health care costs, expand coverage, and address inequities in care. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“After shameless obstruction from Republican Senators, Senate Democrats did what needed to be done to fight the pandemic and restart our economy. The American Rescue Plan is a historic improvement to the American health care system. It will lower health insurance premiums for millions, get more Americans covered, and help address racial inequities. After a decade of Republicans waging a war on the Affordable Care Act, President Biden and Democrats are delivering on their promises to lower health care costs and expand coverage. The American Rescue Plan has overwhelming bipartisan support in red states and blue states, and it will get vaccines in people’s arms, cash into families’ pockets, and kids back to school. Republicans have shown they have no positive ideas and are willing to play games with people’s lives and livelihoods in the middle of a pandemic.” 

BACKGROUND:

The American Rescue Plan Will Expand Coverage, Dramatically Reduce Health Care Costs For Americans

As part of the American Rescue Plan, Democrats included major provisions to lower health care costs and expand coverage, building on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation will lower premiums for people purchasing coverage through the ACA marketplaces and expand access to financial assistance for more middle-class families. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan includes robust financial incentives for the 14 states that have not yet implemented Medicaid expansion. 

Making health insurance more affordable and accessible is especially important as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic and millions have lost their jobs and their health insurance. Measures to increase affordability also reduce racial disparities in health care access. Despite significant progress after the implementation of the ACA, Black and Hispanic adults are more likely than white adults to have low incomes and face financial barriers to receiving care.

Lower Costs: 

Increasing financial assistance on the ACA marketplaces means more people will be able to get the affordable coverage they need during the pandemic. Similar legislation previously passed by the House would lower costs for more than 10 million Americans and provide affordable options for uninsured Americans at a time when access to health care is paramount. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.3 million uninsured people will gain coverage as a result of these provisions alone. 

  • Guarantee coverage that costs less than 8.5 percent of income. This legislation lowers the cost of premiums for Americans purchasing coverage through the ACA marketplaces, ensuring enrollees have the option to purchase health care for less than 8.5 percent of their income for the next two years. 
  • Make coverage more affordable by temporarily expanding the eligibility for premium tax credits above 400 percent of the federal poverty level — roughly $51,000 for a single person or $105,000 for a family of four. Under current law, families earning just above 400 percent of the federal poverty level spend an average of 15 percent of their incomes on health insurance. According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: 
    • The average 45-year-old earning $60,000 will save $86 in monthly premiums. 
    • A 60-year-old couple with a household income of $75,000 will save $1,389 in monthly premiums. 
    • A family of four with a household income of $120,000 will save $595 in monthly premiums. 
  • Improve affordability for low- and middle-income Americans by increasing the size of the tax credits for all income brackets for the next two years. This means a typical family of four with a household income of $75,000 will save $248 on monthly premiums, while a single adult earning $30,000 will save $110 per month. 
  • Eliminate premiums in the exchanges for people earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $19,000 for a single person and $39,000 for a family of four) and for those receiving unemployment insurance in 2021. 

Expanded Coverage:

In addition to providing affordable coverage options for millions of uninsured Americans through the ACA, the American Rescue Plan provides robust financial incentives for the 14 states that have not yet implemented Medicaid expansion. Research confirms that Medicaid expansion increases access to care, improves financial security, and leads to better health outcomes. Medicaid expansion has played a vital role in reducing racial disparities in health care access and has served as a critical safety net during the pandemic. 

An estimated four million uninsured adults — including 640,000 frontline workers— could gain coverage if the remaining holdout states adopted expansion. Importantly, people of color make up nearly 60 percent of this group. 

IN THE NEWS: Robust Start to President Biden’s Special Enrollment Period Shows Americans Need Health Care Coverage During Pandemic

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report showing more than 206,000 Americans signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace during the first two weeks of the special enrollment period President Biden enacted allowing Americans to get covered during the pandemic. These numbers demonstrate people need and want affordable health insurance, especially in the middle of a pandemic when millions have lost their jobs and their health insurance. News reports show that Americans are turning to the affordable health insurance available to them because President Biden delivered on his promise and opened a special enrollment period under the ACA. 

CNN: Sign-Ups For Biden’s Obamacare Special Enrollment Period Nearly Triple. “More than 206,000 people signed up for Affordable Care Act policies on the federal exchange in the first two weeks of the special enrollment period ordered by President Joe Biden, federal data released Wednesday shows. Uninsured Americans who want to buy 2021 coverage on healthcare.gov could start doing so on February 15, thanks to an executive order Biden signed in January.” [CNN, 3/3/21

  • CNN: The Biden Administration Is “Pouring $50 Million Into Marketing And Outreach To Let People Know About The Opportunity.” “Biden, however, reopened enrollment to give the uninsured another chance to select policies during the coronavirus pandemic, and his administration is pouring $50 million into marketing and outreach to let people know about the opportunity. CMS is also providing about $2.3 million to 30 navigator organizations to assist consumers with enrollment, the agency announced this week. Former President Donald Trump refused to launch a special enrollment period when the pandemic hit last year and slashed the Affordable Care Act’s marketing and navigator budgets throughout his term.” [CNN, 3/3/21

Washington Post: More Than 200,000 Americans Sign Up For ACA Health Plans During Special Enrollment Period. “More than 200,000 Americans signed up for Affordable Care Act health plans during the first two weeks of an extended enrollment period President Biden ordered to help more people find insurance amid the economic ripple effects caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Figures released Wednesday by federal health officials show the number of consumers who chose coverage through HealthCare.gov from Feb. 15 to Feb. 28 — 206,236 — was nearly three times higher than during the same period last year and roughly 3½ times greater than in 2019.” [Washington Post, 3/3/21

Associated Press: Biden Encouraged By Consumer Interest In ‘Obamacare’ Offer. “In a solid start, more than 200,000 people signed up for coverage the first two weeks after President Joe Biden reopened HealthCare.gov as part of his coronavirus response, the government said Wednesday. Early consumer interest in the three-month special enrollment period shows pent-up demand for health insurance a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people still unemployed or unable to work as many hours as before.” [Associated Press, 3/4/21

  • Larry Levitt, Executive Vice President For Health Policy At The Kaiser Family Foundation, Said “This Special Enrollment Period Could Make A Meaningful Dent In The Number Of People Uninsured.” “If the pace keeps up, ‘this special enrollment period could make a meaningful dent in the number of people uninsured,’ said Larry Levitt, who tracks health insurance for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. ‘The enrollment numbers so far are stronger than I would have expected.'” [Associated Press, 3/4/21

Healthcare Finance: More Than 200,000 Take Advantage Of ACA Special Enrollment Period. “President Joe Biden, unlike his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, supports the Affordable Care that was signed into law when he was vice president to President Barack Obama. During his campaign, Biden promised to strengthen the ACA and to offer a public health insurance option.” [Healthcare FInance, 3/3/21

The Hill: Over 200K Sign Up For ACA Plans During Biden Special Enrollment Period. “Americans want health insurance. More than 200,000 people signed up for health coverage on federal ObamaCare exchanges in the first two weeks of a special pandemic enrollment period, according to federal statistics released Wednesday…According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the number of signups from Feb. 15 to Feb. 28 was nearly three times higher than during the same period last year, when only 76,000 people signed up.” [The Hill, 3/3/21

USA Today: Obamacare Sign-Ups Increase During Special Enrollment Period For COVID-19. “More than 206,000 Americans signed up for health insurance through the federally run HealthCare.gov in the first two weeks of the three-month special enrollment period created by President Joe Biden, the administration announced Wednesday. That compares with about 76,000 who enrolled during the same period last year, when people could only pick a plan if they had a special circumstance, such as a job loss.” [USA Today, 3/3/21

Senate Finance Committee Advances Becerra’s Historic Nomination

Washington, DC — Today, the Senate Finance Committee voted to advance the nomination of President Biden’s highly qualified pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra. Becerra has decades of experience and was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act when he served in the House. As California’s attorney general, Becerra also led the charge to protect Americans’ health care against constant, baseless Republican attacks. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“Xavier Becerra has proven he is uniquely qualified to serve as HHS Secretary. Becerra was an architect of the ACA, and he has been a staunch defender of the health care law as California’s attorney general. As the first Latino selected for this role, Becerra’s nomination is historic — especially at a time when our country is battling the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color. President Biden needs his health care team in place as soon as possible, and Becerra is ready to hit the ground running on day one to get the pandemic under control, build on the ACA, and protect the health of Americans. The Senate should vote to confirm Becerra immediately.” 

Special Enrollment Period Numbers Show Americans Want and Need Affordable Insurance As They Battle the Pandemic

More Than 206,000 People Got Covered in First Two Weeks

Washington, DC — Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report showing more than 206,000 Americans signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace during the first two weeks of the special enrollment period President Biden enacted after taking office. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement: 

“President Biden’s decision to open the Affordable Care Act Marketplace for business is making a huge difference for hundreds of thousands of Americans. People need affordable health insurance, especially in the middle of a pandemic when millions have lost their jobs and their health insurance. These numbers show that Americans need and want the affordable health insurance they can now get because President Biden delivered on his promise and opened a special enrollment period under the ACA. Democrats are about to pass the American Rescue Plan, which includes the most significant expansion of health care in a decade. The ARP will make Marketplace insurance even more affordable by reducing premiums for over 10 million Americans, yet Republicans would rather play political games than help their own constituents. It’s disgraceful.”

The Reviews Are In: Overwhelmingly Popular American Rescue Plan Contains the Most Significant Health Care Reforms in a Decade

Health Care Provisions in the American Rescue Plan Will Lower Costs and Expand Coverage for Millions

New polling from Public Policy Polling on behalf of Protect Our Care shows that the American Rescue Plan has wide bipartisan support from the American people, even though every member of the House GOP voted against it. As Protect Our Care outlined earlier this week, Republicans are trying to make it more likely for people to get infected with the virus, and less likely to get health care if they do. Much like when Republicans voted to repeal health care in 2017, this vote could haunt them in the months, years, and elections to come. 

Alongside direct checks, money for vaccines, and other critical provisions, this bill includes the most significant reforms to health care in the United States in a decade. This legislation will lower premiums for people purchasing coverage through the ACA marketplaces and expand access to financial assistance for more middle-class families. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan includes robust financial incentives for the 14 states that have not yet implemented Medicaid expansion. The health provisions in the American Rescue Plan will lower costs and expand coverage for millions at a time when access to health care is paramount.

Here’s what the headlines are saying about this expansion:

NBC News: Obamacare Would Get a Big (and Quiet) Overhaul in the COVID Relief Bill. “The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed the House on Saturday would make one of the biggest changes to the Affordable Care Act in over a decade, and it could set the stage for a broader overhaul of the health care program — but don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard much about it. ” [NBC News, 3/2/21]

CNBC: The $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill Would Make Health Insurance More Affordable for Millions. “The $1.9 trillion Covid stimulus package that’s expected to clear the House of Representatives on Friday includes several provisions that aim to make health care more affordable for households. They include: increasing premium subsidies (technically tax credits) through the federal marketplace and state exchanges for 2021 and 2022, expanding who qualifies for them and forgiving amounts due by taxpayers who received too much in subsidies in 2020 (and minimizing that issue for 2021).” [CNBC, 2/26/21

Vox: The Covid-19 Relief Bill Is Also an Obamacare Expansion Bill. “The Covid-19 relief package proposed by President Joe Biden and being considered by Democrats in Congress could expand health care coverage to millions of people, the most significant step in the last 10 years toward patching up some of the holes in the Affordable Care Act.” [Vox, 2/17/21

USA Today: Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Bill Includes an Expansion of Obamacare. Here’s How It Would Work.“That potential boost in insurance help for millions of people would be the first significant expansion of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, since its 2010 passage. The Senate this week is taking up the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package and Democrats hope it could be sent to Biden’s desk for his signature as early as next week.” [USA Today, 3/2/21

Washington Post: Affordable Care Act Subsidies Likely to Increase Under Congressional Plan. “The expansion of federal subsidies for Affordable Care Act health plans, stretching to reach people who are in the middle class or unemployed, is woven into a proposal the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to approve by the end of this week. The proposal also would raise ACA insurance subsidies for consumers already eligible for that help. The ideas have been adopted in the past year by the Democratic-led House but had no chance of becoming reality until the Senate and the White House shifted last month into Democratic hands.” [Washington Post, 2/10/21

New York Times: At Last, Democrats Get Chance to Engineer Obamacare 2.0. “But Republicans united against the law and, for the next decade, blocked nearly all efforts to buttress it or to make the kinds of technical corrections that are common in the years after a major piece of legislation. Now the Biden administration and a Democratic Congress hope to engineer the first major repair job and expansion of the Affordable Care Act since its passage. They plan to refashion regulations and spend billions through the stimulus bill to make Obamacare simpler, more generous and closer to what many of its architects wanted in the first place.” [New York Times, 2/27/21

Washington Post: The Health 202: Democrats Are Using Their Coronavirus Relief Package to Try Expanding Health Coverage.  “Legislation from the House Energy and Commerce Committee offers the dozen states that haven’t expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare a fresh new incentive to do so. Under the proposal released late last night, the federal government would cover an extra 5 percent of costs for all of their Medicaid enrollees – not just the expansion population – if states agreed to expand the program. The extra contributions would last two years.” [Washington Post, 2/10/21]

New York Times: Broad Coalition of Health Industry Groups Calls for Obamacare Expansion. “The coalition is composed of eight powerful industry groups, including America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It released a detailed set of proposals on Wednesday morning, including an increase in the federal subsidies available to help people afford coverage and a three-year re-establishment of the generous match in federal funding to states to entice more of them to expand their Medicaid programs. The coalition also urged the government to spend more money on enrolling people in plans offered by the insurance markets established under the law, efforts that were slashed by the previous administration.” [New York Times, 2/10/21

Politico: Democrats Push Temporary Obamacare Expansion in Covid Bill. “Pieces of the Covid-19 relief package House Democrats released Monday night include the first major expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies in more than a decade — a key plank of President Joe Biden’s health care agenda that they hope to pass in the coming weeks. Democrats are hoping that the beefed up subsidies, combined with Biden’s recent executive order to reopen the ACA’s markets and advertise heavily to entice people to enroll, will make a major dent in the ranks of uninsured Americans that have grown during the pandemic and ensuing economic recession.” [Politico, 2/8/21

The Hill: House Dems’ COVID-19 Relief Bill Includes 2-Year Boost to ObamaCare Subsidies. “House Democrats’ coronavirus relief legislation released Monday would increase the Affordable Care Act’s financial assistance for two years, providing greater help for enrollees’ to afford their premiums…Increasing ObamaCare’s financial assistance to make premiums more affordable has been a major Democratic goal for years, viewed as an improvement to the original ACA, but has been blocked by Republicans who oppose spending more money on a health care law they oppose.” [The Hill, 2/8/21

Axios: Democrats Eye Big ACA Changes in COVID Relief Bill. “Democrats’ coronavirus relief proposal includes major changes to the Affordable Care Act, aiming to make health insurance more affordable for the millions of people who have lost their employer-based coverage during the pandemic.” [Axios, 2/10/21

New York Times: One Sentence in Biden Stimulus Plan Reveals His Health Care Approach. “Now, control of the White House and a slim majority in Congress mean the first real prospect of significantly strengthening Obamacare since it became law in 2010. President-elect Biden’s inclusion of policies to shore up the health law in his first major legislative package has raised those hopes further.” [New York Times, 1/16/21]

Biden Keeps Health Care Promises, Announces Additional Funding to Boost ACA Special Enrollment Period

Washington, DC — Today, as first reported in Axios, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced an additional $2.3 million in funding for Navigators that will help people enroll in coverage during the current special enrollment period that runs through May 15, 2021. This is in addition to the $50 million in outreach and education funding announced last month. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement:

“President Biden is keeping his health care promises. Today’s announcement is another example of President Biden delivering on his commitment to increase coverage by funding the necessary outreach, education, and enrollment efforts to make sure people know how to get covered. Since taking office, President Biden has opened a special enrollment period, removed barriers to enrolling in Medicaid, and proposed the American Rescue Plan, which includes the most significant reforms to health care in over a decade — to reduce cost, expand coverage, and improve care. After just a few weeks in office, President Biden is enacting policies that add up to the largest improvement in health care in ten years.”

COVERAGE: Praise for HHS Nominee Xavier Becerra

This week, the Senate HELP and Finance committees held confirmation hearings for Biden’s pick for Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra. Coverage shows Becerra left no doubt that he is a historic, experienced, well qualified nominee to lead HHS. Becerra has decades of experience and was an architect of the Affordable Care Act when he served in the House. Becerra also led the charge to protect Americans’ health care against constant, baseless Republican attacks as California’s attorney general. Becerra is ready to lead HHS on day one, and he will work with the Biden administration to build on the strong foundation of the Affordable Care Act by lowering health care costs, including prescription drugs, expanding coverage for all Americans, and working to get the pandemic under control.  

Key Stories

Yahoo Finance: Why Biden Chose California’s Attorney General To Be Health And Human Services Secretary. “Becerra served in Congress for 12 terms and was a senior member of the health subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee. Upon being elected California’s attorney general in 2017, he became a key defender of the ACA with his office frequently filing lawsuits (over 100) against the Trump administration, most notably the case of Texas v. California, which challenges the constitutionality of Obamacare.” [Yahoo Finance, 2/25/21

  • Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Said Becerra “Has Been A Leader On Everything From Expanded Insurance Coverage Access To High-Quality Health Care.” “’He has been a leader on everything from expanded insurance coverage access to high-quality health care,’ Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary from 2009 to 2014, told Yahoo Finance. ‘He is one of the foremost experts I would say in the country on the Affordable Care Act, both in its design features and then defending the law in court. But he’s also done lots of important work for children and families and immigrant children, which was one of the areas of great concern when he served in Congress.’” [Yahoo Finance, 2/25/21
  • Larry Levitt, Executive Vice President For Health Care Policy At The Kaiser Family Foundation, Said “It Would Be Hard To Find Anyone In the Country Who Has Been So All-In On Preserving And Expanding The ACA.” “Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health care policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, agreed with the assessment that Becerra’s strength lies in his expertise related to Obamacare. ‘It would be hard to find anyone in the country who has been so all-in on preserving and expanding the ACA,’ Levitt told Yahoo Finance. ‘The setup as attorney general was the chief legal defender of efforts to overturn the ACA and the courts. So he’s well-steeped in all of the intricacies of the law, and it comes from a state that has been one of the most proactive in implementing the ACA from the start. So I think he’s certainly a good choice to reinvigorate the Affordable Care Act.’” [Yahoo Finance, 2/25/21

The Nation (Column): Why Xavier Becerra Is A Smart Pick To Run HHS. “But it was Becerra’s dogged efforts to protect the Affordable Care Act—and to maintain California’s ability to bring millions of previously uninsured residents under its umbrella—that pushed him to the fore when Biden was deciding whom to nominate as his HHS secretary. At a time when conservative states, led by Texas, along with the federal government were urging the US Supreme Court to declare the entire ACA unconstitutional, California—which had used the law and its own insurance exchange to reduce the percentage of its population that was uninsured from upwards of 17 percent to roughly 7 percent—marshaled an alliance of states to aggressively defend the landmark legislation.” [The Nation, 2/26/21

Additional Coverage Highlights Becerra’s Health Care Experience 

CNN: “One Of Becerra’s Highest-Profile Health Care Roles Recently Has Been Chief Defender Of The Affordable Care Act In Court.” “One of Becerra’s highest-profile health care roles recently has been chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. He has also battled the health care industry to keep costs down for consumers. In 2018, he filed a lawsuit against Sutter Health, a system of 24 hospitals and more than 12,000 doctors in Northern California, for using anti-competitive practices to consolidate market power, resulting in higher health care prices. The attorney general secured a $575 million settlement that requires Sutter to change some of its practices.” [CNN, 2/23/21

Los Angeles Times: “Fixing Disparate Access To Health Care Was A Signature Issue During [Becerra’s] Two Dozen Years In The House.” “Becerra represented Los Angeles for 24 years in the House and was a senior member of the committee that sets healthcare policy. He was among the small group of lawmakers who helped write the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Fixing disparate access to healthcare was a signature issue during his two dozen years in the House. Abortion rights and child advocacy groups have lined up in support of Becerra, as has the American Medical Assn.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/23/21

Associated Press: “As A Congressman, [Becerra] Played A Behind-The-Scenes Role Steering President Barack Obama’s Health Care Law Through Democratic Divisions In The House.” “Becerra, 63, represented Hispanic neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the U.S. House for more than 20 years before becoming his state’s chief law enforcement officer, succeeding Vice President Kamala Harris after she won election to the Senate. His politics are liberal but his style is low-key and oriented toward problem solving. As a congressman he played a behind-the-scenes role steering President Barack Obama’s health care law through Democratic divisions in the House.”  [Associated Press, 2/23/21

Washington Post: “Running The Nation’s Largest State Justice Department Since 2017, [Becerra] Has Led A Coalition Of Democratic Attorneys General Defending The ACA…” “However, Becerra worked on major health-care legislation, including the ACA, during his long tenure in the House. Running the nation’s largest state justice department since 2017, he has led a coalition of Democratic attorneys general defending the ACA from an attempt, in a case now before the Supreme Court, to invalidate the entire health law. He would be the first Latino HHS secretary.” [Associated Press, 2/23/21