Joe Biden marked the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act with a trip to Ohio on Tuesday, touting his efforts to reverse many Trump-era measures aimed at weakening the landmark health reform law, and pledging that his $1.9tn Covid rescue package would build on the ACA’s promise.
The administration also extended a special enrollment period for registering for subsidized health insurance coverage until 15 August, from the previous deadline of 15 May. The extension will give Americans who lost health coverage during the pandemic more time to sign up, and allow more Americans to take advantage of new federal subsidies to reduce insurance premiums granted under the new relief package.
Biden visited Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital to mark the anniversary and promote a $100m grant the hospital received under the program, known as Obamacare, to upgrade its radiation oncology department.
The visit comes as Biden and other top White House officials are hitting the road on the Help is Here tour to promote the $1.9tn Covid-19 relief bill, Biden’s first major legislation. The measure provides short-term subsidies that deliver discounts for nearly everyone who buys insurance under the program.
“We have a duty not just to protect it, but to make it better and keep becoming a nation where health care is a right for all, not a privilege for a few,” Biden said in a speech on Tuesday. “Millions of families will be able to sleep a little more soundly at night because they don’t have to worry about losing everything if they get sick.”
Many of Biden’s trips have been to politically critical states. Democrats, who hold a bare majority in the Senate, are hoping to compete in 2022 for a seat being vacated by retiring Ohio Republican Rob Portman. Biden lost the battleground state to Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
Democrats see healthcare as a winning issue.
The Affordable Care Act – the signature legislative achievement of Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president – has survived repeated attacks from Republicans, on Capitol Hill and in the courts. It is expanding under Biden’s watch.
Biden signed several executive orders reversing actions by Trump, who failed in his repeated vow to repeal Obamacare.
Republicans oppose extensive government involvement in insurance markets and have criticized the cost and quality of healthcare under the program.
There are about 28 million Americans without health insurance, down from about 46.5m in 2010, when the ACA was passed, according to federal figures.
During last year’s presidential election campaign, Biden proposed a healthcare plan that would allow Americans to choose between their private insurance plans and government-sponsored public options. He took criticism from the liberal arm of the Democratic Party, which felt his proposals were too mild.