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Biden expands ACA, Medicaid access, protects women's health rights

By
Jean Lotus & Danielle Haynes
President Joe Biden signs executive actions strengthening Americans' access to quality, affordable healthcare in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. Pool Photo by Doug Mills/UPI
President Joe Biden signs executive actions strengthening Americans' access to quality, affordable healthcare in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. Pool Photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday signed executive orders that aim to fulfill two campaign promises -- expanding Americans' access to healthcare and protecting women's health and reproductive rights.

In the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, Biden signed one order to reopen enrollment to the Health Insurance Marketplace and take steps to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

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The other order aims to safeguard women's health in the United States and abroad.

He said the orders were meant to "undo the damage [former President Donald] Trump has done."

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"There's nothing new that we're doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president, which by fiat he changed and made more inaccessible, more expensive and more difficult for people to qualify for either of those two items," Biden said.

The first order extends a special enrollment period for health insurance coverage under Medicaid and the Healthcare.gov exchange between Feb. 15 and May 15.

"This Special Enrollment Period will give Americans that need healthcare coverage during this global pandemic the opportunity to sign up," the White House said in a statement.

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"[The orders] also direct federal agencies to reconsider rules and other policies that limit Americans' access to healthcare and consider actions that will protect and strengthen that access."

Among the things the directive asks federal agencies to evaluate are policies that "undermine protections" for those with pre-existing conditions, items that may reduce coverage and policies that make it harder to enroll.

Biden's order to protect women's health rescinds the Trump administration's global reproductive health gag rule called the "Mexico City Policy" -- which has barred U.S. funding from going to non-profits that provide abortion or reproductive rights counseling.

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The policy was first ordered by former President Ronald Reagan in 1985 and lasted for eight years until it was revoked by President Bill Clinton. President George W. Bush revived the rule in 2001 and it remained in force until President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

The White House said the action reflects the Biden administration's policy to "support women's and girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights" in the United States and around the world.

Biden's actions also direct the Health and Human Services Department to immediately consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program.

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"The actions the president is taking today complement the commitment he made...to make health insurance coverage more affordable," the White House said. "Reliable and affordable access to health insurance doesn't just benefit families' health; it is a critical source of economic security and peace of mind for all.

"For President Biden, this is personal. He believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality healthcare."

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