WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that 2.8 million consumers took advantage of a special six-month period to sign up for private health insurance coverage made more affordable by his COVID-19 relief law.
He called the number encouraging and urged Congress to help lower health care costs.
"That’s 2.8 million families who will have more security, more breathing room, and more money in their pocket if an illness or accident hits home," Biden said. "Altogether, 12.2 million Americans are actively enrolled in coverage under the Affordable Care Act — an all-time high."
Biden ordered the HealthCare.gov marketplace to reopen Feb. 15 for six months, through Aug. 15, to give people who lost their jobs and health care benefits due to the pandemic the opportunity to sign up for coverage for themselves and their families.
That coverage then became more affordable in April due to enhanced subsidies in the COVID-19 relief law, which attracted even more enrollment.
Biden said an all-time high of 12.2 million people are now covered by under Affordable Care Act.
The Obama-era law, enacted in 2010, is aimed at making health coverage more affordable by offering subsidized private insurance nationwide for people who do not get such insurance through their employer. The law also expanded Medicaid for low-income adults, and most states have done so.
President Joe Biden makes remarks during a press conference on the grounds of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on Sept. 14, 2021, in Arvada, Colorado. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
The two components cover about 27 million people, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
Biden said Wednesday that the subsidies in his COVID-19 relief law have helped trim premiums by about $67 a month for people who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and that 4 in 10 consumers who bought during the special sign-up window found plans for $10 a month or less.
Out-of-pocket expenses have also dropped, he said.
Biden, who was vice president when the Affordable Care Act became law and wants to expand it, also called on Congress to do more to help lower health care costs, including by making the enhanced subsidies permanent, acting on his proposals to lower prescription drug costs and freeing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. The enhanced subsidies are good only through 2022.
The regular annual sign-up season for the Affordable Care Act won’t start again until Nov. 1.
Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report