Health Reform WK-EDGE Biden Administration prioritizes pandemic response, access
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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Biden Administration prioritizes pandemic response, access

By Patricia K. Ruiz, J.D.

In first three months of his term, President Joe Biden acted quickly to expand access to COVID treatment and vaccines and protect the ACA.

COVID relief and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) restoration and expansion top President Joe Biden’s list of priorities, said Eric Zimmerman, partner at McDermott Will & Emery in a presentation titled "Medicare & Medicaid in the Age of Coronavirus and the Biden Administration: A Look Ahead" at the American Health Law Association (AHLA) 2021 Virtual Institute on Medicare and Medicaid Payment Issues. In his presentation, Zimmerman detailed actions of the Biden administration to counter the spread of COVID-19 expand access to health care services.

Administrative actions. The Biden Administration has made quick work of improving health care quality and access. The administration has made 11 COVID-related executive actions to improve access to COVID care and support vaccine distribution. It also opened a three-month Special Enrollment Period in the federal exchanges. To boost access to women’s health, Biden revoked the Trump Administration’s Mexico City Policy prohibiting international non-profits from receiving federal funding if those organizations provide abortion counseling or referrals. Additionally, the Biden Administration made 20 other executive actions related to issues such as climate change and immigration, which also have health care implications. Finally, the administration has withdrawn 10 health care regulations and paused 4 regulations from the Trump Administration and revoked 10 of the previous administration’s executive orders relating to health policy.

Legislation. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) (H.R. 1319), hit major areas of concern for the Biden Administration, including COVID relief, Medicaid and CHIP, and coverage expansion. ARPA provided funding for vaccines, testing, and treatment; provided $8.5 billion for rural providers in addition to funding for states and local governments; and provided $500 million in grants for rural health infrastructure. ARPA also eliminated cost sharing for COVID treatment in Medicaid and CHIP for one year after the public health emergency and established a 100 percent federal Medicaid assistance percentage (FMAP) for COVID vaccines. Additionally, ARPA sought to expand health care coverage by paying 100 percent of COBRA premiums and expanding advance premium tax credits.

ACA restoration and expansion. The Trump Administration took efforts to reduce the reach of the ACA by allowing alternatives to qualifying health plans, reducing funding for marketplace navigators, and proposing regulations that would allow states to rely on brokers rather than health insurance marketplaces. Biden campaigned on shoring up the ACA and reducing the number of uninsured. Biden also challenged efforts by the Trump Administration to make it more difficult for CMS to withdraw section 1115 waivers, signing an Executive Order directing agency review, notifying states of the intent to revoke such waivers, and asked the Supreme Court to oppose work requirements for Medicaid eligibility in Gresham v. Azar and Philbrick v. Azar.

Attorneys: Eric Zimmerman (McDermott Will & Emery).

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