New Executive Orders Help Abortion Seekers, Medicare Enrollees

President Biden said the objective is to “undo the damage that Trump has done” to the Affordable Care Act and to women’s reproductive health.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on health care in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden signed two executive actions Thursday in an attempt to bolster health care access for marginalized groups and to stamp out the anti-abortion work of the last administration.  

“The best way to describe them is that they undo the damage that Trump has done,” Biden said at the White House this afternoon. “We are restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president.”

Since his inauguration last week, the president has signed a string of more than three dozen executive actions that by and large erase some of the more controversial feats of his predecessor, whose term came to an abrupt halt during a global pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans. 

Setting the stage for a presidency focused on making health care accessible and affordable, Biden took action Thursday on behalf of workers who lost their employer-based health insurance during the pandemic.

Giving this group another chance to enroll in Medicaid, Biden opened an extra window to enroll in Healthcare.gov, the federally run health insurance marketplace, from Feb. 15 to May 15. 

Under the Trump administration, open enrollment in the health insurance marketplace was available for just a six-week window beginning in November — half as long as the period under Obama.

Further undermining the program, Trump declined to reopen enrollment for those who lost coverage due to Covid-19, slashed public-outreach funding for the federal exchange by 90%, and propped up Medicaid work requirements and other policies that undermine protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Biden on Thursday directed federal agencies to reexamine any rules and policies that may impede access to health care or undermine the signature health care law known as the Affordable Care Act that Trump repeatedly targeted but never managed to repeal throughout his time in office.

Thomas Greenly, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, called the measures “common sense.”  

“First of all, over half of the country gets health care through their employer,” Greenly said in an interview. “And with millions of people losing their jobs, that’s a big change that has to be addressed. People who lose their job lose their insurance.”

In another move Thursday, Biden joined the long tradition of administrations to tackle U.S. funding for foreign nonprofits that provide abortion procedures, counseling and referrals. The global gag rule or Mexico City Policy, as it is otherwise known, has been alternatively rescinded and reinstated under Republican and Democrat presidents since its initial implementation by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the policy put restrictions on more than $7.3 billion in U.S. aid last year, and, throughout the duration of the Trump ban, potentially affected more than 1,000 foreign nongovernmental organizations. 

The Mexico City Policy has long been championed by abortion opponents who are furious to see it go.  

“Funneling U.S. tax dollars to abortion groups overseas is an abhorrent practice that flies in the face of the ‘unity’ Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promised to inspire,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List. “Rather than rally the nation around common ground policies to affirm and promote life, today they force taxpayers to bankroll abortion businesses overseas.”

President Trump instituted similar restrictions on domestic clinics, which were no longer able to receive federal family planning grants through Title X if they promoted or provided abortions. Biden’s executive actions Thursday put this rule under review and will attempt to roll it back. 

“Again, I’m not initiating any new law, any new aspects of the law,” Biden said. “This is going back to what the situation was prior to the president’s executive orders.”

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