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Record 14.5 million Americans signed up for 2022 health coverage under Affordable Care Act

MoneyWatch: Insurance for at-home COVID tests
MoneyWatch: Privately insured Americans no longer have to pay for at-home COVID-19 tests 03:22

Washington — President Biden said Thursday that a record 14.5 million Americans got private health insurance for this year under the Obama-era health law, thanks to help from his administration.

"Health care should be a right, not a privilege, for all Americans," Mr. Biden said in a statement. "We are making that right a reality for a record number of people, bringing down costs and increasing access for families across the country."

But progress could prove fleeting if congressional Democrats remain deadlocked over Mr. Biden's social agenda package. Mr. Biden's earlier coronavirus relief bill has been providing generous subsidy increases that benefit new and returning customers by lowering premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The enhanced financial assistance is temporary. It will go away at the end of this year without congressional action to extend it more year or make it permanent.

The president said new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrates that his administration's efforts to sign more people up through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have had an impact. The figures show that one in seven uninsured people got covered between the end of 2020 and September 2021, with lower-income Americans gaining coverage at the highest rate. That time frame overlaps with a special sign-up the Biden administration held for much of last year and does not include the regular sign-up season for 2022.

The ACA, better known as "Obamacare," offers health insurance to people who lack job-based coverage through a mix of subsidized private plans and expanded Medicaid, which is provided in most states. Thursday's numbers reflect the private insurance side of the program, available in all states through or state-run health insurance markets. All told, the number of people covered though the Obama law is estimated around 30 million.

"This did not happen by accident," Mr. Biden said. His COVID-19 relief bill, he said, "did more to lower costs and expand access to health care than any action since the passage of the Affordable Care Act."

Besides improved subsidies, the Biden administration also focused more attention on outreach, increasing the number of enrollment counselors and stepping up advertising.

With the end of open enrollment in most states, people still looking for coverage will need a specific reason, such as losing a job or a change in family circumstances, to qualify for a special enrollment period.

However, state-run insurance markets in California, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., remain open through next Monday.

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