President Joe Biden is taking steps meant to expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
Alongside the government health plan’s chief architect, former President Barack Obama, at the White House Tuesday, Biden announced plans to fix the “family glitch” in the ACA and signed an executive order that will “protect and strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.”
Should Biden’s family glitch rule be finalized, it would allow non-employee family members with private insurance from an employer that costs in excess of 10 percent of the household income to qualify for coverage under the ACA. The administration estimates that 200,000 uninsured people would gain coverage, and nearly 1 million Americans would see their coverage become more affordable.
A senior administration official on a call with reporters ahead of the announcement conceded not all of the roughly 5 million families who qualify for the change may want to switch coverage if the rule is approved, saying that some might “find it more convenient to have their whole family in a single health plan.”
The ACA has seen its premiums skyrocket over its 12-year existence.
The administration has not offered details as to how much the new rule would cost taxpayers but has said that if approved it would take effect at the start of next year.
Biden’s executive order he signed on camera Tuesday continues an order he signed at the start of last year directing agencies to “[make] coverage more affordable and accessible for American families.”
In a speech, Biden scolded repeated Republican efforts to repeal the ACA since its inception.
“I got a better idea: Instead of destroying the Affordable Care Act, let's keep building on it,” said Biden. “Let's extend it.”
Biden also made calls to “close the Medicaid coverage gap” in states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid. He also called for a change in law to allow Medicare to negotiate prices for drugs that are on the market.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law in 2017 by former President Donald Trump gutted the ACA by removing penalties for those who violate the plan’s individual mandate rule requiring all Americans to pay for health insurance.
In March of last year, Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan that included boosts to the ACA, including enhanced subsidies and incentives for states to expand the program.
This past winter, the administration ran what it calls “the most successful open enrollment period under the ACA ever” with 14.5 million sign-ups, plus another 1 million that signed up for a related program called the "Basic Health Plan."