By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Many people would argue that health care is a right not a privilege and as a right, it must be accessible and affordable for all. Disparities in health care costs have long existed and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden Harris Administration made moves to expand the Affordable Care Act through the American Rescue Plan.
The administration aims to continue to lower costs, expand coverage and build on the Affordable Care Act by taking care of the ‘family glitch.’ President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama talked the Affordable Care Act and what expanding affordable health care means during a press conference on Tuesday, April 5.
The Affordable Care Act was first signed into law in March 2010, Harris said during her remarks. She added that in its 12 years, the act has provided affordable health care to more than 30 million Americans, such as working parents and their children, college students and older adults, individuals with pre-existing conditions and more.
“The ACA is a statement of purpose,” Harris said. “A statement about the nation we must be, where all people – no matter who they are, where they live or how much they earn – can access the health care they need, no matter the cost.”
She continued, “Protecting the health and wellbeing of the people of our nation should not be a partisan issue. Every person in our nation should be able to access and afford the health care they need to thrive – not as a privilege, but as a right.”
During his remarks, Obama commented on the work he and Biden achieved during his tenure in office including the Affordable Care Act. He noted that reforming health care was not an easy task and misinformation and a lack of bipartisan support made it more difficult.
“Today, the ACA hasn’t just survived; it’s pretty darn popular,” Obama said. “And the reason is because it’s done what it was supposed to do: it’s made a difference. First, 20 million now 30 million people have gotten covered thanks to the ACA.”
While the Affordable Care Act has made strides in terms of health care coverage, he noted that there are still gaps that need to be addressed. These include prescription drug costs, the ‘family glitch’ and more.
The act provided the foundation, and now Biden is building on it to make it better, he said.
“What the Affordable Care shows is that if you are driven by the core idea that, together, we can improve the lives of this generation and the next and if you’re persistent…you can have an impact on millions of lives,” Obama said.
Biden, who spoke following Obama, noted that the Affordable Care was created to ensure that people were treated with dignity. Echoing the others, he noted that health care is a right, not a privilege.
Upon assuming office, Biden expanded the Affordable Care Act under the American Rescue Plan. This allowed Americans to enroll in health care and increased the number of navigators, who helped explain coverage options.
In an executive order issued that same day, Biden is directing federal agencies to continue expanding affordable and quality health care coverage by making it easier for people to enroll in health care, help people understand their coverage options, enact steps to reduce medical debt, improve access to health care providers and more.
Furthermore, the administration plans to address the aforementioned ‘family glitch’ – which provides employer-based coverage for the employee but not their families. This will save families hundreds of dollars monthly, Biden said.
While the fights against the Affordable Care Act have not stopped in its 12 years of existence, neither have the efforts to keep building on it.
“We just got to keep it going and keep building on it,” Biden said. “We need to keep the faith, and we need to remember: We’re the Untied States of America, and there’s simply – literally – nothing beyond our capacity when we’re united and do it together.”