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Biden moves to roll back Trump restrictions on abortion, Obamacare

Biden’s actions on health care and abortion are among the numerous ways he has been wiping out his predecessor’s signature achievements.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden began rolling back anti-abortion measures put in place by the Trump administration and moved to shore up the Affordable Care Act after four years of efforts to dismantle one of Biden’s top legislative accomplishments as vice president.

Biden signed an executive order Thursday directing federal agencies to reverse policies put in place by the Trump administration that weakened the insurance marketplace and made it more difficult for people to get Medicaid.

Biden also issued a presidential memorandum reversing the Mexico City policy, also referred to as the global gag rule, which bars U.S. tax dollars from going to international organizations that provide abortion services, and directed the Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider policies put in place that limit funding for groups in the U.S. that provide abortion and family planning services.

"The best way to describe them, is to undo the damage Trump has done," Biden said of the executive orders. "There's nothing new that we're doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president, which by fiat, he changed and made more inaccessible.”

Biden’s actions on health care and abortion are among the numerous ways he has been wiping out his predecessor’s signature achievements and reinstating policies of the Obama administration. After just over a week in office, Biden has halted construction on the border wall, rejoined the Paris climate pact, and thrown out the Trump administration's ban on travel from several Muslim-majority countries.

Former President Donald Trump was unsuccessful in getting Congress to repeal Obamacare, but did take steps to weaken the law by making it harder for people to get coverage, particularly those with lower incomes. But because Trump’s actions were done through executive power rather than legislation, Biden will be able to reverse many of them quickly and unilaterally.

Under the executive order Biden signed Thursday, the marketplace will be opened for a three-month special enrollment period starting Feb. 15 for people to get health care coverage needed during the pandemic.

The order also directs agencies to re-examine Trump administration policies that undermine and make it more difficult for people to enroll in Medicaid or the insurance plans and make insurance less affordable.

The Trump administration had slashed the advertising and outreach budget for the federally supported health insurance marketplaces and shortened the length of time people had to sign up for insurance on them. The Trump administration also eliminated subsidies to help insurers lower out-of-pocket costs for people with lower incomes.

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One change Trump made to Obamacare that will be more difficult to address, however, was the elimination of the tax penalty for those who don’t have insurance. That was wiped out in the 2017 tax overhaul passed by Congress, so it would need to be reinstated through legislation. The penalty was intended to encourage people to purchase insurance.

During Trump’s presidential campaign he repeatedly promised that a health care plan would be coming in a matter of weeks, but no such plan with any level of detail was ever released.

Biden’s presidential memorandum on abortion immediately rescinds the Mexico City policy, which was initially put in place by President Ronald Reagan and reinstated by Trump. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate action to consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program, which under the Trump administration cut millions in federal funds for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.