Washington, DC (AP) – President Joe Biden is about to take his first steps to reverse the Trump administration’s health policies. The White House said Biden planned to sign orders on Thursday on a range of issues, including covering more Americans and removing restrictions on abortion counseling.
Most tangible near-term impact will come from reopening Biden HealthCare.gov insurance markets as coverage shrunk amid economic turmoil the coronavirus pandemic. Created under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” the markets offer taxpayer-subsidized coverage regardless of a person’s medical history or pre-existing conditions, including COVID-19 .
This new three-month “special registration period” could begin as early as Feb. 15, according to a White House summary.
Biden will also immediately reverse a federal policy that prohibits taxpayer funding of international health care organizations offering abortion counseling or referrals. Known as Mexico City politics, it can be turned on and off depending on whether Democrats or Republicans control the White House.
Other guidelines Biden plans to release on Thursday could take months to implement. Among them, he will charge the Ministry of Health and Social Services with:
– Consider rescinding Trump regulations that prohibit federally funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. The ban on referrals led Planned Parenthood clinics to quit the program.
– Reconsider a Trump administration policy that allows states to impose work requirements as a condition for low-income people to purchase Medicaid health insurance. The job demands were blocked by federal judges and the Supreme Court agreed to hear the issue.
– Examine policies that could compromise protection for people with health conditions, such as a Trump administration rule that has made it easier to sell short-term health insurance plans that do not have to cover pre-existing medical conditions .
The abortion-related actions will bring Biden immediate praise from women’s rights groups, as well as condemnation from social and religious conservatives. Under President Donald Trump, abortion opponents have had carte blanche to try to rewrite federal policy, and now the political pendulum is pulling back.
Biden also campaigned to repeal long-standing federal bans on taxpayer funding for abortion, but a shift of this magnitude to a group of laws known as The Hyde Amendment would require congressional approval.
The regulatory changes Biden is asking federal health officials are unlikely to happen overnight, as hastily written rules are more easily overturned in court, as the Trump administration has discovered. Time and time again, federal judges have ruled that Trump officials are ignoring regulators’ legal requirements, for example by demonstrating that they have considered all aspects of an issue.
There is broad support for the idea of reopening Obamacare’s health insurance markets, including from consumer groups, professional medical associations, insurers and business organizations.
Although the number of uninsured Americans has increased due to job losses in the economy of the coronavirus, the Trump administration has resisted calls to reopen HealthCare.gov. Failure to repeal and replace Obamacare as he has repeatedly promised was one of the former president’s bitterest disappointments. His administration continued to try to find ways to limit the program or untangle it entirely. A decision of the Supreme Court on Trump’s latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is expected this year.
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 the southern states being the major exception. Coverage is available for people who do not have employment-based health insurance, with the expansion of Medicaid targeting low-income people.
Of some 28 million Americans uninsured before the pandemic, the Nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that more than 16 million were eligible for some form of subsidized coverage through health law.
Experts agree that the number of uninsured people has increased due to layoffs in the coronavirus economy, possibly 5 to 10 million, but authoritative estimates await government studies expected later this year.
The special enrollment opportunity is just a down payment on health insurance for Biden, who has vowed to use former President Barack Obama’s health care law to push the United States toward a coverage for all. For that, he would need congressional approval, and opposition to the health care law still runs deep among Republicans.