President Obama's landmark health care law not only remains in effect after 12 years but continues to be popular, while Republicans have given up efforts to repeal it.
The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced that a "record-breaking" 15.9 million people have signed up for health insurance coverage via Affordable Care Act marketplaces during the most recent open enrollment period. Increased sign-ups follow several actions taken by President Joe Biden that have expanded the availability of health coverage.
The department noted that in the period from Nov. 1, when the enrollment period began, to Jan. 7, 3.1 million previously unenrolled people had signed up for plans, along with 12.8 million who had a plan in 2022 and reenrolled. Enrollments for the current period are ahead of sign-ups during the 2022 period, which held the previous record for the program, established under the Affordable Care Act that was signed into law in 2010 by former President Barack Obama.
"The Biden-Harris Administration has made expanding access to health insurance a key priority, and we are thrilled to see so many Americans enrolling in Affordable Care Act plans this year," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
People can continue to sign up before the enrollment period ends on Jan. 15.
In the first two years of his presidency, Biden took several actions to expand the program, reversing course from the administration of former President Donald Trump, who sought to repeal the legislation.
The Biden administration in October announced that it had finalized a federal rule fixing a "family glitch" caused by language in the law that prevented some family members from receiving subsidized coverage.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law in August — after it passed in the House and Senate with only Democratic support — also contained provisions applying to the Affordable Care Act.
Biden has also bolstered efforts to raise public awareness of the sign-up period.
When Trump took office in 2017, his administration drastically cut funds available to advertise the program, including grants used for consumer helpers, referred to as "navigators," who assist in signing up participants. Under Trump, the navigator budget dropped from the $63 million it had been in Obama's last year to $36 million in 2017 and $10 million from 2018 to 2020.
Biden increased navigator funding to $80 million in his first year in office, then to $98.9 million in 2022.
2023 will mark the 13th year the Affordable Care Act has been in effect, despite immediate challenges by Republicans in Congress, who unanimously opposed its passage in 2010. Congressional Republicans voted over 50 times to repeal the law in efforts that ultimately failed to pass through Congress. The law also survived three challenges backed by conservative opponents that made it to the Supreme Court.
Trump campaigned on repealing the law during the 2016 presidential campaign, and while legislation to do so passed in the Republican-held House in 2017, the effort died in the Senate, where it was opposed by all Democrats and three Republicans.
Republicans running for Senate seats in 2022 did not voice support for repealing the law, and it was not mentioned in the "Commitment to America" agenda proposed by House Republicans ahead of the midterm elections.
"I think it's probably here to stay," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told NBC News in October.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.