Quick Take: Biden Administration Health Care and Health Equity Executive Actions

By Maddie Mason, Senior Associate, Policy 

President Biden has released a series of Executive Orders (EOs) and Memoranda since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. The National Health Council (NHC) is closely monitoring these, and other executive actions issued by the Biden Administration, especially those with an emphasis on health care and equity.  

Health Care Executive Orders: 

On Jan 28, Biden issued an EO on Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, this EO: 

  • States that it is the Biden Administration’s policy to protect and strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to make high-quality health care accessible to and affordable for every American; 
  • Establishes a Special Enrollment Period from February 15 – May 15, 2021 for the uninsured and underinsured to seek health insurance coverage through the Federal Marketplace; and 
  • Directs Federal Agencies to re-examine: 
    • Policies limiting access for people with pre-existing conditions, including those with complications related to COVID-19, under the ACA; 
    • Medicaid Demonstrations and Waivers, including work requirements, that reduce coverage; 
    • Policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace; and 
    • Policies that reduce the affordability of coverage or financial assistance for coverage. 

On Feb. 2, Biden signed an EO on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. Specifically, this EO tasks the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify appropriate agency actions to address concerns about the current public charge policies’ effect on the integrity of the Nation’s immigration system and public health. 

The NHC believes President Biden may issue an EO soon on section 1557 of the ACA, which is the provision that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in health programs. 

Health Equity Executive Orders:  

In addition to the health care EOs, President Biden has also issued EOs and other executive actions related to health equity.  

  • Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government directs: 
    • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to assess if agency policies and actions create or exacerbate barriers to full and equal participation by all eligible individuals; 
    • All Federal Agencies to review their programs and policies to assess if underserved communities and their members face systemic barriers in accessing benefits; 
    • OMB and Federal Agencies to identify ways the budget can be used to enhance equity;  
    • Establishment of an Equitable Data Working Group to promote equity in government action; and  
    • Rescinding a Former EO that prohibits certain diversity and equity training. 
  • Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery: 
    • Establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to develop recommendations for mitigating the heath inequities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing future inequities. 
  • Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation directs: 
    • All Federal Agencies to review all agency actions to fully assure all actions prohibit sex discrimination based on gender identity.
  • A Memorandum for The Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Modernizing Regulatory Reviews: 
    • Calls for a set of recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review to promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. 

The NHC will post analyses of future EOs here on the Putting Patients First blog.