Biden talks with Obama to boost healthcare enrollment

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President Joe Biden turned to his old boss, former President Barack Obama, on Saturday to help him encourage Americans to sign up for “Obamacare” health care coverage during an expanded special enrollment period in the pandemic.

Biden used his weekly address for a brief Zoom chat with Obama to draw attention to the six-month expanded enrollment period that closes Aug. 15. Meanwhile the government released a report that claims that nearly 31 million Americans — a record — now have health coverage through Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act.

“We did this together,” said Obama, whose administration established the health insurance marketplace. “We always talked about how, if we could get the principle of universal coverage established, we could then build on it.”

The White House effort to spotlight the expanded enrollment period and claim strong numbers for the Obama-era health care law comes as the political world and the health care system await a Supreme Court ruling on the law’s constitutionality. The Zoom call was recorded on Friday afternoon and released Saturday as Biden’s weekly address.

The Health and Human Services Department said in a report that nearly 31 million have obtained coverage in 2021 as a result of the law. That’s considerably higher than the more than 20 million estimate that’s commonly cited.

The Biden administration has launched a special COVID pandemic sign-up period, and Congress passed a big boost in subsidies for private health plans sold under the law. But that alone doesn’t explain the increased coverage.

The report says 11.3 million people are covered through the health law’s marketplaces, where subsidized private plans are offered. An additional 14.8 million are covered through expanded Medicaid, the report adds. All but a dozen states have accepted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which mainly serves low-income working adults. And 1 million are covered by so-called basic health plans, an option created by the ACA and offered in a limited number of states.

That accounts for enrollment of about 27 million people. But the Biden administration is also claiming credit for four million people who would have been eligible for Medicaid without Obama’s law.

Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the law broke down barriers to enrollment among those who were already eligible by simplifying applications and increasing awareness. He also pointed to the establishment of community-based navigators tasked with helping newly eligible people find coverage and conducting outreach to those who were already eligible but didn’t necessarily know it.

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