By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Proclaiming that health care is a right and not a privilege, President Joe Biden said his administration is committed to ensuring that every American has access to the quality, affordable health care they need.

The President noted that since his American Rescue Plan authorized the re-opening of the Affordable Care Act in February, more than 1 million Americans have gained coverage. The former administration, which tried to demolish the health care law, had closed enrollment last fall.

In one of his first acts as President, Biden declared his intention of offering more coverage.

“Since it became law more than a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act has been a lifeline for millions of Americans. The pandemic has demonstrated how badly it is needed and how critical it is that we continue to improve upon it,” President Biden stated.

On February 15, the Biden-Harris Administration expanded HealthCare.gov to provide all an opportunity to sign up for health insurance through a special enrollment period. 

Less than three months later, the President announced that one million have signed up. 

“That’s one million more Americans who now have the peace of mind that comes from having health insurance. One million more Americans who don’t have to lie awake at night worrying about what happens if they or one of their family members gets sick,” President Biden remarked. 

“Through this opportunity for special enrollment, we have made enormous progress in expanding access to health insurance.”

The administration also has focused efforts on ensuring that African Americans enroll.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra earlier announced commitments from national organizations to support Black American outreach and enrollment efforts during the special enrollment period.

 Governmental estimates show that Black Americans represent roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population but 16 percent of the uninsured.

Last month, HHS and its partnership organizations, combined social media efforts to inform African American consumers and spur enrollment in “affordable, quality health plans through HealthCare.gov.”

 An estimated 66 percent of Black uninsured adults now may have access to a zero-premium plan and 76 percent may be able to find a low-premium plan as a result of expanded coverage, Secretary Becerra noted in a news release.

“Black Americans are clearly taking advantage of the current Special Enrollment Period to access quality health care coverage,” Secretary Becerra stated. 

“But we still have a lot of work to do. We are building on this encouraging momentum and earnestly teaming with key national partners serving Black communities.”

He continued:

“We are leveraging their expertise and networks to promote enrollment in quality, affordable health insurance coverage during this special enrollment period. Health care is more affordable now, and access easier than ever, for people in need of a health plan that best fits an individual’s or family’s health care needs.”

President Biden reiterated that there remains plenty of time for anyone to sign up at www.HealthCare.gov. 

The enrollment period has an August 15 deadline.

 “Getting more Americans covered is an important part of the equation — but we also need to lower health costs,” President Biden continued. 

“My American Rescue Plan lowered premiums for nine million Americans who buy their coverage through the Affordable Care Act, saving families an average of $50 per person per month. 

“Americans are also seeing lower out-of-pocket costs. Since April 1, the median deductible for Americans signing up for new coverage on HealthCare.gov has dropped by nearly 90 percent, to just $50.”

President Biden concluded that his American Families Plan would build on the work to make health care more affordable, including making the American Rescue Plan’s premium reductions permanent. 

“This milestone demonstrates that there is a need and a demand for high quality, affordable health insurance across this country,” the President determined. 

“It is up to Congress to hear them and act quickly to pass the American Families Plan.”