COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) — On the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act Tuesday, President Joe Biden toured a cancer treatment and research hospital in Ohio and touted his plan to help Americans through both health and economic crises through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.
After touring The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University in Columbus as part of his "Help is Here" tour, the president called the Affordable Care Act a "historic achievement," and noted that the act helped expand the radiation oncology department at the hospital thanks to a $100 million grant.
The president reiterated his desire for the "end of cancer as we know it" while he's in office.
"It's within our reach," he said. "Just as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) helped bring us everything from the internet to GPS, I'm going to be proposing to my friends in Congress that we launch a similar operation at the Department of Health called ARPA-H, to deliver new health breakthroughs and to find cures for cancer and other diseases, by investing millions of dollars in drug companies for research they are not willing to do or don't have the capacity. I know we can find breakthroughs."
Biden said his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan builds on the foundation of the Affordable Care Act by expanding health care coverage, reducing premiums and covering those who lost insurance when they lost their jobs by covering COBRA insurance for up to six months.
"On this anniversary we should remember just how close we've come to losing that act that we fought so hard for," he said. "And we have a duty not just to protect it but to make it better, and keep becoming a nation where health care is a right for all and not a privilege for a few."
Biden announced the extention of a special enrollment period, telling Americans that they have until Aug. 15 to sign up for a plan through the Affortable Care Act.
Eric Sieber, PhD, who is the director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Evaluation Studies at Ohio State, said in an interview with Courthouse News that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on insurance markets are still unknown.
"We know that 20 percent of Americans lost their jobs, but we don’t yet have the data to know where they got their insurance coverage," he said, adding that the expanded Healthcare Marketplace could fill those gaps.
The American Rescue Plan is also focused on ramping up vaccine supply and distribution, and helping individuals and businsesses who have sufferred economically due to the pandemic.
"Through no fault of their own, millions have lost their jobs. Children are going hungry through no fault of their own. Millions of Americans are not able to make their mortgage payments or rental payments," Biden said, noting the plan's $1400 stimulus payments that many Americans recently received and which has helped more than 10 million Ohians.
Sieber said that latest round of payments has been "essential for households."
"Many have really struggled, and this round really kept them afloat," he said. "Many of the earlier stimulus payments were saved and used over time, but this round is being used immediately, going to pay bills."
Biden said his plan's support for small businsesses will help keep them open and noted that economists "left, right and center" have acknowledged the expanded loans for small businsses will "create more than 7 million more jobs and will increase economic growth."
The president also discussed the tax credits available under the American Rescue Plan, touting the expanded earned income credit and tax credits for parents. "This is going to be life changing. It's estimating that this will do more to end child poverty in America more than anything we've ever done."
President Biden reminded Americans to stay socially distanced and to wash their hands, as recommended by CDC. "And get vaccinated when it's your turn. It's a patriot responsibility you have."
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