Last week, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at bolstering Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), taking the first step to repair damages done by the previous administration to these life-saving health programs.

Notably, the executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to open HealthCare.gov for a Special Enrollment Period from February 15 through May 15, 2021, allowing those who are uninsured and underinsured in the ongoing pandemic to obtain coverage in the health insurance marketplace established by the ACA.

The President also directed all executive department and agency heads with any authority related to Medicaid and the ACA to review and determine whether agency policies are conducive to supporting and expanding healthcare access through these two programs. Any policies that may undermine protections or create unnecessary barriers to coverage are to be revised or rescinded.

The ACA was revolutionary in its impact on healthcare access. In the 10 years since the law was enacted, more than 20 million people have accessed comprehensive coverage for the first time. The law extended key consumer protections to more than 100 million people, protecting them from exclusion or excessive costs based on health history. Unfortunately, enrollment has declined since 2016, likely due to the previous administration’s repeated attacks on outreach and marketing of the program. Over 30 million Americans remain uninsured, and these individuals are disproportionately Black, Latinx, and indigenous.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, it is more important than ever that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care. Legal Council is encouraged by this administration’s demonstrated commitment towards expanding access to coverage and looks forward to further progress on health equity in the coming years.