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Obama to return to White House for Biden announcement expanding Obamacare

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Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama will join President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday for an event to promote Obamacare, a White House official said.

The two presidents and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to "deliver remarks celebrating the success of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid in extending affordable health insurance to millions of Americans as part of the President’s agenda to cut costs for American families," according to an email statement from the White House.

This will be Obama's first appearance at the White House since leaving office in January 2017.

The event will highlight additional executive actions President Biden will take to expand Obamacare, which was signed into law by Obama 12 years ago, the White House said.

Last month, the Biden administration announced that a record 14.5 million Americans had signed up for subsidized health insurance through the online Obamacare marketplaces since Nov. 1, including more than 10 million through HealthCare.gov.

“Twelve years ago, I proudly stood beside President Barack Obama as he signed into law the most consequential expansion of health care in generations: the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said in a statement.

“With the stroke of a pen — after decades of tireless efforts — millions of Americans gained peace of mind. And because of my Administration’s efforts, including passing the landmark American Rescue Plan, we have lowered health care costs and made coverage more accessible than ever before — even amid a global pandemic,” he added.

Obama also issued a statement remarking on the 12-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act becoming law.

"During the pandemic, the Affordable Care Act helped make vaccines and COVID-19 tests available for free, covered emergency hospitalizations, and prevented insurance companies from denying anyone coverage based on a pre-existing condition," he said on Twitter.

Obama's sweeping health care reform law was the signature achievement of his presidency, radically changing how Americans interact with health insurance providers.

Obamacare created state-run marketplaces where lower-income Americans could purchase health insurance at a subsidized "affordable" cost. But the law also mandated that health insurance providers include certain essential health benefits in their plans, including coverage for pre-existing conditions and other mandated medical treatments. To cover the cost of providing these benefits, health insurers stopped providing certain plans and raised premiums on Americans who were ineligible for subsidized coverage.

According to the Heritage Foundation, the national average premiums paid in the individual health insurance market effectively doubled between 2013 and 2019. Health insurance deductibles also significantly increased for ACA-compliant coverage plans too, rising from an average of $5,100 in 2014 to $6,894 in 2021, while the average deductible for family coverage increased from $10,333 in 2014 to $13,949 in 2021.

These increased costs were accompanied by reduced access to medical providers, as health insurance companies have offered plans with narrower networks. Health insurers save money by dropping the most popular doctors or hospitals from their network because they know the people who are most sick are likely to use those health care providers and won't sign up for a plan that doesn't include them in their network.

Republicans and other opponents of Obamacare have leveled these criticisms against the law, calling for repeal and replacement, though the GOP has not unified under a plan that would fix these problems.

Democrats have defended the law against these criticisms, claiming success because millions of people who were previously uninsured have been able to sign up for health insurance. Were Obamacare repealed, it's likely that at least in the short term, millions would lose their health insurance coverage.

But Democrats have not been oblivious to the rising costs of health insurance premiums. Included in Biden's American Rescue Plan were increased tax credits for health insurance, which allowed individuals or families with incomes 400% above the federal poverty line to qualify for subsidies to reduce the cost of purchasing health insurance.

Biden will announce further action at the White House Tuesday.

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