WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he would extend the special enrollment period for people to purchase Affordable Care Act health plans by three months, until Aug. 15, as part of his administration's effort to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of people have signed up for ACA coverage, commonly known as Obamacare, during the special enrollment period that Biden ordered from Feb. 15 to May 15. The second extension will help new and current enrollees take advantage of the enhanced subsidies in the Covid-19 relief package that was signed into law this month.
"When I ran for president, I promised I would build on the foundation of the Affordable Care Act. Just 50 days into my administration, we have delivered on that promise with the American Rescue Plan," Biden said Tuesday in a speech in Columbus, Ohio. "It does that by making health care more affordable. It means better coverage and lower premiums for millions of Americans."
The federal ACA insurance marketplace typically is open for only a limited annual enrollment period, usually six weeks at the end of the year. Buying a plan outside that period is generally allowed only after a major change in life circumstances, such as the birth of a child or the loss of a job.
Tuesday is the 11th anniversary of the ACA's being signed into law. The measure was passed in 2010, when Biden was President Barack Obama's vice president.
"On this anniversary, we should remember just how close we have come to losing that act that we fought so hard for," Biden said. "We have a duty not just to protect it, but to make it better."
The visit to Ohio was part of the administration's "Help is Here" tour to highlight the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, with Tuesday's trip promoting how the law expands health care coverage.
The Covid-19 relief package raises subsidies for most people who have coverage through the ACA's marketplaces. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that Biden's American Rescue Plan will, on average, decrease the premiums by $50 a person per month and $85 a policy per month.
The additional assistance will be available starting April 1 to people enrolling in coverage through HealthCare.gov. Biden said Tuesday that 4 out of 5 Americans shopping for ACA plans could get one for $10 or less per month.
"Every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care — especially as we fight back against the COVID-19 pandemic," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Becerra and Doug Emhoff, Vice President Kamala Harris' husband, also hit the road Tuesday to promote the health care provisions in the American Rescue Plan. Becerra traveled to Carson City, Nevada, and Emhoff to Omaha, Nebraska.