Joe Biden to Sign 2 Executive Orders on Health Care—Here's What They Do

President Joe Biden will sign two executive orders Thursday afternoon on health care—continuing the flood of executive actions since he took office last week, largely aimed at unravelling actions taken by the Donald Trump administration.

One order awaiting Biden's pen will restore key parts of the federal Affordable Care Act that Congress passed during the Obama administration, when Biden was vice president. The other will put an end to a Trump policy that bars funding for organizations that provide abortion counseling and referrals in other countries.

Biden already has spent recent days signing executive actions on the environment, racial equity, the economy, and other matters in recent days. His health care proposals particularly are seen as a way to restore Obama-era policies after four years of Trump.

"President Biden believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with affordable health care," a senior administration official told Newsweek and other reporters in a preview ahead of Biden's signing ceremony.

Trump spent years vowing that he would repeal the federal health care law commonly referred to as "Obamacare" and unveil a replacement plan. He never did, falling short of votes needed in the then-GOP-controlled U.S. Senate for the repeal and never fully releasing an alternative.

Instead, Trump signed several executive orders carving away at the health care law.

"There has been action by the Trump administration over the past four years that had the impact of increasing premiums," the Biden administration official said.

Because they are presidential actions, the orders could be quickly reversed in future administrations if Congress doesn't act to make them law. The Biden administration will also be seeking additional health care measures from Congress, the official noted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Biden's efforts on health care on Thursday ahead of the signing ceremony, and accused her frequent foe Trump of attempting to "dismantle" the health care system.

"We're very excited about [Biden's orders] because, of course, we're in the middle of a pandemic," she said.

COVID-19 has killed more than 425,000 people in the United States and hospitalized thousands more.

Here's what the executive actions Biden will sign Thursday do:

Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act

The first executive order Biden is set to sign on Thursday seeks to "reverse attacks" on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, according to a preview document provided to Newsweek.

Medicaid is the federally-funded health care program for the poor that added thousands of people to its rolls after it was expanded through Obamacare.

The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to reopen its open enrollment period for the federal insurance exchange from February 15 to May 15 to allow more people to sign up.

It also directs all federal agencies to conduct a review to see whether any of their policies are hindering access to affordable health care—including any that are harmful to people with preexisting conditions or make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid.

The agencies also will be instructed to determine whether to continue to allow some waivers granted under the Trump administration that have allowed states to place certain restrictions or qualifications, such as work requirements, should be eliminated.

Protecting Women's Health at Home and Abroad

Trump quickly expanded a Reagan-era policy known as the global gag rule (or the Mexico City policy, after the town where it was drafted), that bars federal aid to organizations abroad that perform abortions or provide counseling and referrals for them. Biden's order will end that policy, allowing those groups to again seek funding.

The order also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to review Title X family planning policies to see whether any are preventing access to reproductive health services.

joe biden
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about climate change issues in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden signed several executive orders related to the climate change crisis on Wednesday, including one directing a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty

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