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Affordable Care Act sign-ups up by 3.1 million this year

Officials attribute the soaring number of insured Americans to the power of a massive 2022 law focused on health care as well as climate change and tax reform.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Touting record-breaking enrollment for 2023, the Biden administration announced Wednesday that around 3.1 million Americans are getting insurance for the first time under the federal health care law.

“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 on a press call Wednesday accompanying a statement.

A total of 15.9 million people have selected plans within the Affordable Care Act marketplace network, and 80% of them, some 12.8 million people, are carrying over from 2022 coverage. Health and Human Services officials note that about 1.8 million more people have signed up for health insurance as compared with this time last year, with five days still left to enroll.

“Thanks to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, four out of five enrollees can find coverage for $10 or less,” Becerra pressed Wednesday, tipping his hat to a law signed this summer that represents the biggest federal investment against climate change in U.S. history. 

Narrowly voted in thanks to a last-minute deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the act is expected to reduce drug prices and bring in nearly $2 trillion in climate savings while raising taxes on wealthy corporations.

On the health care front, the package includes measures to lower treatment costs by empowering Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for a limited number of drugs, beginning in 2026, and to cap monthly insulin prices for people who use Medicare at $35 a month. It also includes a policy long fought for by Democrats that extends Affordable Care Act subsidies for people purchasing their own insurance until 2025, preventing insurance premiums from rising.

Speaking alongside Becerra Wednesday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure noted that there is still more progress to be made.

“We're not done yet,” Brooks-LaSure said. “The Marketplace Open Enrollment Period isn’t over yet. There is still time to enroll or find a new plan for yourself or your family. I encourage all those looking for affordable, quality health care, or interested in exploring their options, to visit before the final deadline on January 15.”

Even the standardized plan options available through the ACA marketplace carry pre-deductible services, including primary care, generic drugs, preferred brand drugs, urgent care, specialist visits, mental health and substance use outpatient office visits, officials say. Speech, occupational and physical therapy are offered on some plans pre-deductible as well.

Biden also made a last-minute push in a tweet Wednesday for those who need care to sign up for ACA coverage, celebrating the nearly 16 million who will be “getting the dignity that affordable care provides.”

Coverage will begin February 1 for those that apply and choose a plan by January 15. The administration noted that state-based marketplace enrollment deadlines may vary.

Enrollment for 2023 plans opened on November 1.

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