WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Saturday addressed his former boss, former President Barack Obama, to help encourage Americans to subscribe to “Obamacare” health coverage during a special pandemic enrollment period .
Biden used his weekly address to hold a brief Zoom talk with Obama to draw attention to the extended six-month enrollment period that closes on August 15th.
Meanwhile, the government released a report that nearly 31 million Americans (a record) now have health coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
“We did it together,” said Obama, whose administration established the health insurance market. “We’ve always talked about how, if we could establish the principle of universal coverage, we could take advantage of it.”
The White House’s effort to highlight the expansion of enrollment and claim numerous numbers for the health law came as the political world and the health care system await a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the law. . The Zoom call was recorded on Friday afternoon and posted on Saturday as Biden’s weekly address.
The Department of Health and Human Services said in a report that about 31 million had been covered in 2021 as a result of the law. This is considerably higher than the estimate of more than 20 million that is usually cited.
The Biden administration began a special registration period during the pandemic, and Congress approved a major boost in subsidies to private health plans sold under the law. But that alone does not explain the increase in coverage.
The report says 11.3 million people are covered through health law markets, where subsidized private plans are offered. The report adds that an additional 14.8 million is covered through expanded Medicaid. All but a dozen states have agreed to the Medicaid expansion of the law, which serves primarily low-income working adults. And one million is covered by so-called basic health plans, an option created by law and offered in a limited number of states.
This means the registration of about 27 million people. But the Biden administration is also claiming credit for 4 million people who would have been eligible for Medicaid without Obama’s law.
Larry Levitt, executive vice president of health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the law broke down barriers to enrollment among those who were already eligible by simplifying applications and raising awareness. He also noted the establishment of community-based browsers tasked with helping newly eligible people find coverage and publicizing those who were already eligible but did not necessarily know it.
“It didn’t require a general law like the ACA to enroll people who were already eligible for Medicaid, but the ACA provisions helped get those millions of people covered,” Levitt said.
The challenge of states
The Supreme Court is soon expected to rule on a challenge to Texas and other Republican-led health care law. They argue that because Congress has removed the penalty from the law for not being insured, an ACA requirement, which is now toothless, that almost every American must have health insurance, is unconstitutional and therefore the law should fail.
Proponents of the law say that even if the Supreme Court removes the coverage requirement, there is no reason to manipulate the rest of the law.
The White House says 1.2 million people have enrolled in health insurance through the government market during the special enrollment period that began in February. This number includes people who would have qualified to get a registration opportunity even without the special Biden registration period.
A life change, such as losing job coverage or getting married, is considered a “qualified life event” that allows people to sign up at any time of the year. Last year some 390,000 people registered due to life changes from February 15 to April 30, the government said.
Biden, in conversation with Obama, talked about the 2015 death of his son Beau Biden from cancer.
“I literally remember sitting in bed with him about a week or so before he died,” Biden said, “and thinking,‘ What would you do in the name of God if you received a warning from the insurance company that you exceeded your coverage? ‘”