Following his inauguration just over a week ago, President Joe Biden has taken swift action on a number of key healthcare issues via executive order. On Thursday Jan. 28, Biden signed an executive order requiring insurers selling plans through HealthCare.gov to begin taking new applications for consumers through a special enrollment period. HealthCare.gov is the federal health insurance exchange website established under the Affordable Care Act, where consumers can purchase health insurance and utilize subsidies based on their income to apply towards coverage.
A special enrollment period will open Feb. 15 and run through May 15. Typically, marketplace open enrollment takes place Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 of each year, but the continued challenges presented by COVID-19 along with high unemployment rates prompted the action. Biden officials also stated that the special enrollment period would include dedicated marketing and outreach efforts, which were curtailed under the previous administration.
The executive order also directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to review several policies previously implemented under the Trump Administration, including Medicaid work requirements. Arkansas was one of eight states to be granted a waiver for Medicaid work requirements, but a federal judge overturned Arkansas’s work requirement in March 2019. The work requirements have been the subject of ongoing legal challenges since that time, and the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the legality of Medicaid work requirements this spring.
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Biden also reversed course on a previously announced plan by the Trump administration to stop requiring physicians to obtain a waiver to dispense buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid use disorder and the subject of a previous blog post. According to a statement on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website, the previous announcement was made prematurely, and guidance cannot be issued at this time. However, the Biden administration has committed to identifying other avenues to increase access to buprenorphine and reduce overdose rates.