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Executive order expands healthcare coverage

Order reopens healthcare exchange enrollment, review of restrictive regulations

By Sue Hermann | February 2, 2021

With COVID-19 case counts on the rise and a number of Americans out of work and without health insurance, President Biden took steps to expand healthcare coverage last week.

Through an executive order, Biden reopened the enrollment window for the federal healthcare insurance exchange implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and called for a review of existing policies that may limit healthcare insurance coverage or protections.

“We weren’t surprised by the action, which made good on campaign promises to bolster the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” said Jason Almiro, director of healthcare knowledge management at BOK Financial. “We see both steps as positive news for hospitals and managed care companies.”

Enrollment in the ACA federal healthcare insurance exchange is typically limited to six weeks in the fall. Under the executive order, the enrollment window will reopen February 15 through May 15 of this year.

“Although it’s not explicitly stated in the order, we expect to see several ‘patient outreach’ initiatives in the coming weeks to attract individuals to the exchange,” said Almiro. “These efforts could include paid ads and partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups to get the word out.”

The executive order also calls for a review of existing regulations that could limit healthcare insurance coverage or protections involving the healthcare exchange or Medicaid. The order calls for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to examine policies that could limit coverage – and propose new regulations that could increase coverage.

“Many are expecting the HHS to revise or cancel work requirements under Medicaid coverage put in place by the previous administration,” said Almiro. “They may also end states’ ability to transition their Medicaid program to a block grant system, which was an approach recently taken by Tennessee.”

Efforts to increase healthcare insurance coverage are seen as positive for providers, particularly hospitals and managed care companies. However, Almiro noted, it will take time for the HHS to review all policies and to identify which ones to revise.