President Biden said on Wednesday that 2.8 million Americans chose a health plan through Obamacare during a special enrollment period from February to August, bringing the total number of active clients in the program to a record 12 ,2 millions.
Mr Biden credited his coronavirus pandemic relief bill earlier this year, which dramatically increased federal grants that cover the cost of market premiums established by the Health Act signed in 2010 and put implemented in 2014.
“Americans who buy their coverage through the Affordable Care Act have seen their premiums drop by an average of $ 67 per month – that’s over $ 800 each year that can go to the grocery store, to daycare. children or other essentials, ”Biden said. “More than four in ten Americans who got coverage during the special enrollment period found a quality plan for $ 10 or less per month.”
The Trump administration, which has repeatedly sought to reduce or replace Obamacare, has rejected calls for a special enrollment period for people made redundant earlier in the pandemic. He said people who lost their jobs were eligible to return to HealthCare.gov and select a plan anyway.
But Mr Biden embraced the idea and funded a public awareness campaign as he tried to attract more clients to the program he was championing alongside former President Barack Obama.
“The peace of mind that comes from affordable, quality health coverage should be a right – not a privilege – for every America,” he said Wednesday.
The special registration period was supposed to last from mid-February to mid-May, but Mr Biden extended it until August, prompting states with their own portals to offer more time.
Figures released by the White House include the federal portal HealthCare.gov which serves 36 states and listings on state-run websites.
“2.8 million families will have more safety, more room to breathe and more money in their pockets if an illness or an accident strikes their homes,” Biden said.
Mr Biden’s coronavirus bill temporarily increased aid at all levels and made people earning more than 400% above the poverty line eligible for federal aid for the first time, removing income cap and offering financial assistance if “benchmark” premiums exceed 8.5% of income.
The president said the increased enrollment offered a good reason to expand benefits as part of his broad family support proposals currently being debated in Congress.
Republican opponents of Obamacare say tackling the underlying cost of health care, not increasing subsidies, is the best way to use taxpayer dollars.
But Mr Biden said he wanted to use federal levers to do even more. He asked Congress on Wednesday to let Medicare directly negotiate drug prices, a controversial idea supported by patient advocates but fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry.
He also said 11 recalcitrant states should expand eligibility for Medicaid as prescribed by Obamacare.