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Internists Support Biden Administration's Actions to Begin to Improve Access to Health Care

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 — The executive actions announced by President Biden today are essential steps toward improving access to health care for patients across the country, says the American College of Physicians (ACP). The actions will open up a special enrollment period for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA); begin to rollback restrictions on the patient-physician relationship and access to reproductive health care services; and reconsider state waivers that create barriers to Medicaid enrollment. 

“Re-opening enrollment for health insurance plans under the ACA is critical. So many patients across the country have lost their employer-based health insurance due to the staggering job losses we have seen for the past year,” said Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “We know patients without health insurance live sicker and die younger. We should always be looking for ways to increase the number of people who have health insurance, but it is imperative now since our country is facing an unparalleled health care crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In today’s actions President Biden asked agencies to conduct a thorough review of policies and rules that have been put in place to undermine the effectiveness of the ACA. This includes policies that undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19; demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the ACA that may reduce coverage or undermine the programs, including work requirements; policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets for health insurance; policies that make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA; and policies that reduce affordability of coverage or financial assistance, including for dependents. As part of their reviews, agencies will consider whether to take additional actions to strengthen and protect access to health care. 

ACP has long said that the federal government should be seeking ways to improve the ACA. In a previously published policy paper, ACP laid out a series of recommendations to improve the ACA and lay the foundation for health care reforms that will lead to universal coverage for all Americans. Also related to health insurance coverage, today’s actions move to reconsider waivers that allow states to impose work requirements on their state Medicaid programs. ACP opposes work requirements because placing un-related restrictions on the programs undermine their inherent purpose of providing greater access to health care services.

“The ACA has made major progress in reducing the number of people who are uninsured, but there remain significant challenges in providing access to care. These challenges have been greatly exacerbated by efforts to harm the coverage, benefits and protections of the ACA,” continued Dr. Fincher. “We are glad to see that the Biden administration understands the critical importance of this law to providing access to care for our patients, and that the administration will work to ensure patients are provided its full benefits.”

In addition to the actions announced to improve health insurance access, President Biden issued a memorandum to make it the policy of the United States to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care particularly for women, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, low-income, and LGBQTI+ persons. ACP strongly supports providing all persons with access to essential care including reproductive health services. The memorandum also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to “take immediate action to consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program” that restricted access to health care services, including cancer screenings, vaccinations, and family planning services, and conditioned federal funding on physicians being prohibited from counseling patients about their reproductive health choices. When the rules were put into place under the Trump administration, ACP opposed them as an unacceptable intrusion on the patient-physician relationship.

“The Title X federal program has been critical to allowing patients to access preventive care services and treatments. Restricting Title X jeopardizes access for vulnerable patients who may have limited or no access to health insurance,” concluded Dr. Fincher. “Restricting the types of counsel that physicians can provide to their patients is doubly harmful. ACP opposes any restrictions that interfere with the patient-physician relationship.”

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org