Biden focuses on health care

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT) January 29, 2021
20 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
3:47 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Biden just signed an executive order on Obamacare. Here's what it means for you. 

From CNN's Tami Luhby


President Biden has promised to make health care more affordable and available. His executive order today takes one immediate step in that direction.

As a result of his action, the Department of Health and Human Services is set to reopen enrollment on the federal Affordable Care Act exchange between Feb. 15 and May 15.

This would give Americans who missed the most recent sign-up period, which ended Dec. 15, access to Obamacare policies — and to federal assistance to pay for them. Roughly 15 million uninsured people could benefit, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly 9 million of them could qualify for free or subsidized coverage, according to the Foundation. Individuals making up to about $51,000 and families of four earning up to about $104,800 are eligible for subsidies.

Some 36 states use the federal exchange,, for enrollment. But most, if not all, of the states that run their own marketplaces are also expected to launch special sign-up periods, according to a White House official.

Still, it's unclear how many people will take advantage of the chance to select an Obamacare policy.

The Biden administration is promising to conduct a "robust outreach" effort to make these folks aware of the opportunity and help them sign up, the official said. It will include paid advertising, direct outreach to consumers and partnerships with community organizations.

Watch here:

3:50 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Happening now: Biden delivers remarks and signs executive order to reopen Affordable Care Act enrollment

From CNN's Tami Luhby and Betsy Klein


President Biden just signed two health care executive actions, including one reopening enrollment on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Biden said the orders are aimed at undoing "the damage Trump has done."

"There's nothing new we're doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became President," Biden said from the Oval Office. Biden said Trump made both programs “more inaccessible, more expensive, and more difficult for people to qualify.”

Open enrollment on the federal exchanges, which the Trump administration cut in half to six weeks, ended on Dec. 15. But Biden has the power to reopen sign-ups, which will allow the uninsured to select policies under a special enrollment period.

Biden's order will call on the Department of Health and Human Services to reopen enrollment on, which serves 36 states, to those who need coverage from Feb. 15 until May 15. The agency is expected to do so today, according to a White House official.

"As we continue to battle Covid-19, it's even more critical that Americans have meaningful access to health care," Biden said.

Biden will also sign measures aimed at:

  • Strengthening Medicaid, a health coverage program used by low-income adults, people with disabilities, children, the elderly and others.
  • Rescinding the so-called Mexico City Policy, which bans the US government from funding foreign nonprofits that perform or promote abortions.
  • Reviewing the Title X abortion referral restrictions.

Read more about his executive actions here.

Watch here:

1:13 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

GOP senator says there’s “plenty of accountability” for Trump without trial conviction

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt


Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said he is confident former President Trump will not be convicted in the upcoming impeachment trial. 

Barrasso told CNN’s John King that a large number of Republicans would not vote to censure Trump.

“45 Republicans voted that it is unconstitutional to try a president — a former president, a citizen — for impeachment at this point. There is not going to be a conviction,” he said. 

“There's plenty of accountability. This president is the only president in the history of the nation to be impeached twice. Now, that's going to be in the history books forever,” Barrasso added. 

Barrasso accused Democrats of staging “a partisan crusade” with the impeachment trial, adding that it is “vindictive.” 

“They're saying that is even higher priority than focusing on getting people back to work, getting kids back to school, getting relief out there. They're saying it's a higher priority than allowing President Biden to put his Cabinet in place,” he said. 

Barrasso added that lawmakers have been receiving threats and warned that he believes impeachment is “going to pour more gasoline on the fire.”


1:24 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

The Affordable Care Act will be front and center today. Here are key things to know about the law. 

From CNN's Tami Luhby

President Biden is expected to reopen enrollment on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges today as part of a series of executive actions related to health care that he will sign at a 1:30 p.m. ET event at the White House.

It will be Biden's first move toward delivering on his campaign promise to bolster the landmark health reform law that he championed as vice president. And it comes as more Americans could be facing the loss of coverage because of the pandemic-fueled economic downturn.

Here are some key things to know about where things stand with the law, and the changes Biden wants to make:

  • Open enrollment on the federal exchanges – which the Trump administration cut in half to six weeks – ended on Dec. 15. But Biden has the power to reopen sign-ups, which will allow the uninsured to select policies, under a special enrollment period.
  • Biden's order calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to reopen enrollment on, which serves 36 states, to those who need coverage from Feb. 15 until May 15. The agency is expected to do so on Thursday, according to a White House official.
  • Former President Trump refused to take this step last year, despite heavy lobbying from elected officials of both parties and the health care industry. Eleven states that run their own Obamacare exchanges, along with the District of Columbia, allowed their uninsured residents to obtain coverage outside the usual time frame. Most, if not all, are also expected to reopen their enrollment, the White House official said.
  • Reopening enrollment is a much easier lift, though it's unclear how much impact it will have. Anyone who loses job-based health insurance coverage is already eligible to sign up on the exchanges within 60 days of becoming uninsured. Enrollment in the first five months of 2020 jumped 46% compared to the same period the year before, the Trump administration said in June.
  • During the most recent open enrollment period, overall Obamacare sign-ups for 2021 coverage increased when comparing the 36 states participating on the federal exchange both this year and last year — the only time that happened under Trump. But the number of new consumers for 2021 slid somewhat.
  • Nearly 9 million people could get free or subsidized bronze plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges during a special enrollment period, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Wednesday. Bronze plans typically have lower premiums, but higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. A total of about 15 million uninsured people could shop for coverage on the exchanges, Kaiser said.

Read more about today's executive actions here.

12:49 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

DC will have extra security precautions ahead of upcoming impeachment proceedings, mayor says  

From CNN's Nicky Robertson

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said the District will have extra security precautions ahead of upcoming impeachment proceedings as well as President Biden’s expected address to a joint session of Congress, but they do not want troops and fences to be long-term fixtures. 

“There’s still some very volatile events happening which require extra security, the impeachment process going up through the next national special security event that we all have to be mindful of, I would look at that as the time period where we are definitely going to have extra security,” Bowser told reporters during a news conference today.

Bowser said that current fencing by the White House and around Capitol Hill is temporary at this point. “We don’t want extra troops or fences to be a long-term fixture,” she said.

“There’s been a lot of appropriate attention to the injuries that officers incurred, not just our officers at MPD, but as the Capitol Police, both physical and traumatic injuries that we are concerned about and Chief Contee is very concerned about,” Bowser added when asked by CNN’s Whitney Wild about what resources are being provided for officers who responded to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Outgoing Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Roger Mitchell said that DC Acting Police Chief Robert J. Contee has been working to support his officers.

“Chief Contee has made it clear he is placing an emphasis on the mental health support of his officers,” Mitchell said.

5:13 p.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Secretary of State Blinken tells Afghan president US is reviewing deal with Taliban

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Carlos Barria/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Carlos Barria/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Thursday and reiterated to him that the US is reviewing its agreement with the Taliban “and whether the Taliban are living up to their commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to engage in meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders,” according to a State Department readout.

Blinken has been fairly vague about the administration’s plans for Afghansitan. At a news briefing yesterday he cited the need to understand “exactly what is in the agreements that were reached between the United States and the Taliban to make sure that we fully understand the commitments that the Taliban has made as well as any commitments that we’ve made.”

The administration is keeping Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in his role for the time being.

According to the readout of the Ghani call, Blinken “reiterated his desire for all Afghan leaders to support this historic opportunity for peace while preserving the progress made over the last 20 years with regard to human rights, civil liberties, and the role of women in Afghan society.”

“The Secretary committed to consultations with the Government of Afghanistan, NATO allies, and international partners regarding a collective strategy to support a stable, sovereign, democratic, and secure future for Afghanistan,” it said.


11:50 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Senator reads Capitol Police injuries from Jan. 6 attack into the record ahead of Trump's impeachment trial

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

In a floor speech Thursday, Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin read the horrific injuries of United States Capitol Police officers sustained during the Jan. 6 attack into the record ahead of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial next month. 

“Some of my colleagues and many people on their side are saying we shouldn’t spend time talking about what happened January 6… it’s hard to get over it when you consider the facts that I just read into the record,” he said. 

The Illinois Democrat read a piece by Heather Cox Richardson, a historian, who quoted testimony from the Acting US Capitol Police Chief discussing the reports of injuries from the attack into the record. He said:

“She reminded us in her column this morning about what happened here in this capitol building just three weeks ago on January 6. Let me read what she said: ‘In testimony yesterday, the Acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington told the house Appropriations Committee that at least 65 officers filed reports of injury after the January 6 attack. The Chair of the Capitol Police Officers Union put the number closer to 140. I have officers who were not issued helmets prior to the attack and have sustained brain injuries. One officer had two cracked ribs, two had smashed spinal disks. One officer is going to lose his eye, another was stabbed with a metal fence stake. He said one officer died of injuries sustained on January the 6 and two officers have since taken their own lives.”

He continued, “I hope it's part of the record of this impeachment hearing so that this generation and future generations will have no doubt what happened that day. Already we have those who are in denial, who are arguing that this was really some far-left group that was taking over the demonstration. A ludicrous argument on its face. And we have many who are in complete denial that it happened or that it had anything to do with right-wing politics. They are wrong. We saw it. We recorded it. We're going to put it in as part of the record so that America knows what happened on that day.”

Durbin said he doesn’t know what the outcome of the trial will be, but he believes “it’s an important milestone in America's history for us to stop and recount what actually happened in this building on January 6.” 

11:48 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

Pelosi on Biden's stimulus plan: "We will pass a reconciliation bill, if we need it"

From CNN's Clare Foran, Kristin Wilson and Manu Raju

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said House Democrats are getting ready for the potential use of reconciliation if they cannot get bipartisan support on Biden’s Covid-19 economic rescue package. "We will pass a reconciliation bill, if we need it," she said at her weekly news conference, adding "we’re not taking any tools off the table." 

"I’m very proud of our committees who have been diligently working on coronavirus relief legislation as a basis for reconciliation should that be needed. We will pass a reconciliation bill … we will pass a reconciliation bill, if we need it. We would hope that we would have bipartisan cooperation to meet the needs of the American people," Pelosi said. "We would hope that but we’re not taking any tools off the table should they not."

Pelosi’s comments come as Democrats are signaling they don’t plan to wait very long to get buy-in on the plan from Republicans and as a number of Republicans have balked at Biden’s proposal. 

About reconciliation: This is a process that requires the House and Senate Budget committees to first pass a budget with specific instructions to House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to write a Covid relief bill. The Senate would then have to pass that budget with 51 votes, but when they do that it will unlock a lengthy budget vote-a-rama in the Senate that will keep us up through the night as members offer hundreds of political amendments.

Once the budget passes the House and Senate, each committee writes their Covid relief bill. And that bill will have to meet a very specific set of criteria that will be tested by the Senate parliamentarian in a process we affectionately refer to as a "Byrd bath." It's named after former Sen. Robert Byrd, who established a set of rules reconciliation bills have to comply with in order to make sure the budget process wasn't taken advantage of by the majority party. There

You can read more about the process here.


11:24 a.m. ET, January 28, 2021

50 House progressives send letter to Biden asking for reoccurring Covid relief cash payments

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Daniella Diaz

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, led a group of 50 House progressives in sending a letter to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris asking them to prioritize reoccurring direct checks in the next Covid-19 relief package, instead of just a one-time payment.

“We kindly request that your incoming administration consider including support for recurring cash payments in your future economic relief plans. Recurring payments would provide a long- term lifeline to struggling Americans for the duration of this deadly pandemic,” the letter reads.

Politico was first to report the letter.

Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion Covid-relief plan, billed as the American Rescue Plan. It includes bigger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, the hungry and those facing eviction and additional support for small businesses, states and local governments.

You can read more about the plan here.