By Samantha Perez
In just a few days, President Joe Biden has already taken many executive actions, starting with undoing almost everything former President Donald Trump did during his term. Many of these actions are to help manage the spread of COVID-19, as well as provide extra aid for American citizens during the pandemic. Though tackling COVID-19 is at the top of Biden’s to-do list, he also plans on building upon other aspects of America’s healthcare system and expanding the Affordable Care Act, a policy that the former presidential administration tried to repeal. Below is a list of promises Biden has made regarding his plans for healthcare, as well as what he has already done.
Before Biden was elected as POTUS back in November, he made it clear what his plans for COVID-19 were:
Administer 100 million vaccines within the first 100 days of his term
Rejoin the World Health Organization
Fulfill a $415 billion plan to expand testing and vaccinations, increase domestic manufacturing, and create a national corps of public health workers
Pass $2,000 stimulus checks
Put focus on racial equity when dealing with the virus since it has disproportionately infected and killed people of color.
Since the day of his inauguration, these are the various actions Biden and his administration have already taken in response to the COVID-19 crisis:
Require people on federal property to wear masks and social distance at all times
Rejoined the World Health Organization and sent Dr. Anthony Fauci as the head of the delegation to its executive board meeting
Reestablished a team in charge of pandemic response within the National Security Council
Created the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator who will work side-by-side with Biden to fight the pandemic
Created an Executive Order (EO) that calls on agency leaders to assess the depletion of PPE in medical facilities and identify ways to invoke the Defense Production Act to speed up the federal government manufacturing of PPE, such of N95 masks, isolation gowns, and testing materials
Created an EO that has increased testing supply and lab space in order to speed up testing
Created an EO that directs health departments to re-evaluate the government's COVID-19 data systems and that all executive departments and agencies share their COVID-19 data and findings
Created an EO that teams up the HHS secretary and director of the NIH in order to create a plan to support the study of COVID-19 treatments that is easy to manufacture, distribute, and administer both in the US and internationally
Created an EO that directs the HHS and Department of Education to issue guidance on the safe reopening of schools
Created an EO that enforces the use of face masks when traveling in airplanes, public buses, and trains
Created an EO that directs OSHA to release new guidance for employers and increase enforcement of COVID-19 safety regulations in the workplace to ensure worker and customer safety
Issued a proclamation that limits the entry of people coming from the UK, Ireland, South Africa, and Brazil for at least 14 days prior to their attempted entry into the country due to the new strains of COVID that originated outside the US. However, there is an exception for lawful permanent residents, noncitizen nationals, and a noncitizen who is the spouse, parent, or sibling of a citizen or lawful permanent resident. This proclamation remains in place until terminated by President Biden
The Affordable Care Act
A policy issued during the Obama administration when he was VP, Biden proposes to expand on the Affordable Care Act, especially now that people more at risk for COVID-19 infection are those with preexisting conditions. These are some plans Biden has to build on the healthcare policy:
Give Americans the choice to buy into a “Medicare-like” plan or to keep their private insurance under the Biden plan
Provisions will change to improve access to healthcare by eliminating the 400% income cap on tax credit eligibility, base tax credits on gold plans rather than silver ones, and ensure that those buying insurance spend 8.5% of their income instead of the previous 9.86% cap
Ending the Hyde Amendment, a provision that prevents federal funding for abortions unless a child is conceived by rape or incest or the mother’s health can negatively affect the child or herself
Expand coverage for low-income Americans, covering an estimated 4.9 million adults who were denied access to Medicaid in the past, by offering the public option of his plan. Additionally, his plan will ensure people making below 130% the federal poverty level are covered by automatically enrolling these individuals when they interact with certain institutions, like public schools, or with certain programs for low-income populations, like SNAP.
Middle-class families will get a premium tax credit to help pay for coverage. These same premium tax credits are calculated to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles
Prevents healthcare providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient has no control over which provider they see
Repeal the existing law that bars Medicare from negotiating with drug corporations on lower prescription prices
Limit launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are overpriced by manufacturers
Allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries
The cost of the Biden plan is estimated to be $750 billion over the next 10 years, which will be paid for by repealing former President Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy and making the top tax rate go back to 39.6%.
On Thursday, January 28th, President Biden signed an EO that works to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act by directing the Department of Health & Human Services to open a “special enrollment period.” This gives people the opportunity to secure healthcare coverage through the policy during the pandemic. The order also instructs federal healthcare agencies to review policies made during Trump’s term that jeopardizes protections for Americans.
Healthcare in General
Despite keeping his focus on fighting COVID-19 and on expanding the Affordable Care Act, Biden’s plan tackles the healthcare industry from every angle, aiming on protecting women’s reproductive rights and enforcing racial equity in the system. These are the main points Biden and his administration plan to work on:
Reverse the Trump administration’s and state’s policies that keep women from having abortions
Restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood and eliminate the gag rule and Title X gag rule that withholds funds from organizations that administer abortions and reproductive services as a whole
Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which creates and supports comprehensive and cost-effective responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
On Thursday, January 28th, President Biden signed an EO that rescinds Trump’s Mexico City Policy prohibiting international nonprofits that provide abortion services from receiving funding from the US government. Additionally, the Department of Health & Human Services is directed to immediately consider repealing regulations under the Title X family planning program – the gag rule. Under the Trump administration, Title X healthcare providers were prohibited from offering abortion counseling and restricted referrals for abortion care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, this caused roughly one in every four Title X service sites to leave the network in 2019, severely limiting access to healthcare for millions of patients.
Increase disability benefits and reduce the amount of time it take for these individuals to receive them
Provide general financial assistance through the American Relief Plan
Additional stimulus checks for adult dependants
Provide a safer, faster, and more efficient way to bring disabled students back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic
Additional funding for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which is a healthcare service for those who need help with everyday tasks and care at home
Health for BIPOC
Biden’s plan to build on the Affordable Care Act can, if successful, close racial disparities in the healthcare system
Ensure sufficient funding across federal agencies to initiate the collection and analysis of data by racial status to better understand and address health disparities
Enhance cultural competency and enforce racial bias training for healthcare professionals
Extend healthcare rights to DREAMERS and eliminate the five-year waiting period that allows lawful immigrants to be eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Double the funding for public health providers which primarily serve communities of color
Increase funding for Indian Health Services since Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
Reverse the Trump administration’s elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557 nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community
Require federal health plans to cover HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention medications, gender confirmation surgery, and hormone therapy
Update the nation’s comprehensive strategy to proactively reduce new HIV/AIDS cases and increase access to treatments
Set policies to eliminate bias in medical care towards LGBTQ+ individuals
Work with the FDA to ensure blood donation regulations are based on science, not stigma, and aim at shifting pre-donation questionnaires to focus more on specific criteria, like recent sexual histories that include unprotected sex or significant number of sexual partners over the previous year
$4 billion in funding to expand access to mental health and substance abuse treatment
Build and fund programs that provide support to victims of domestic violence/abuse
An additional $20 billion in funding for the healthcare needs of veterans
During his entire campaign and in the Democratic and presidential debates, Biden exhausted his views on how Trump inefficiently tackled the healthcare crisis in the U.S. and how he plans to work with health agencies and institutions to aid American citizen’s worries and needs during this time.