Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Millions of Americans have another three months to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, beginning Monday, after President Joe Biden reopened the enrollment window to sign up for coverage.
The original enrollment period began last November and ended on Dec. 15. However, Biden quickly signed an executive order after he took office last month to open a new enrollment period -- which began Monday and will run through May 15.
Biden's action is intended to address rising numbers of people who have lost their health insurance related to COVID-19.
"Healthcare is a right, not a privilege," Biden said in a statement on Monday. "And I will do everything in my power to ensure that all Americans have access to the quality, affordable healthcare they deserve.
"That is especially critical in the midst of a deadly pandemic that has already taken the lives of more than 470,000 of our fellow Americans and infected more than one out of every 12 additional Americans, often with devastating consequences to their health."
The new enrollment period, which addresses part of Biden's campaign promise to strengthen the ACA, known colloquially as Obamacare, is available through the federal healthcare exchange at HealthCare.gov.
The Biden administration wants to spend $50 million for ACA outreach and education efforts to strengthen the healthcare program, which was established in 2010 under then-Vice President Biden and President Barack Obama.
Enrollment declined nationwide under former President Donald Trump, whose administration unsuccessfully sought to repeal the health law -- which would have cost millions of Americans their medical coverage.
"Consumers who are uninsured can take this opportunity to look for coverage and find out if they qualify for financial assistance to help pay for health insurance," the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a statement.
The agency said all plans available at HealthCare.gov cover primary care visits and cover many preventive care services with no out-of-pocket costs.
"Now, everyone will be able to use a special enrollment period to help secure some peace of mind as we work to beat the pandemic," Biden added, saying that his $1.9 trillion relief package, called the American Rescue Plan, is working its way through Congress.
"[It] will ramp up testing, tracing, and our national vaccination program to get shots into as many arms as possible as quickly as we can. [It] will also take big steps to lower health costs and expand access to care for all Americans, including those who have lost their jobs.
"We will get through this crisis if we look out for one another and work together to expand coverage, lower costs, and ensure that health care truly is a right for all Americans."