Editor's Note: Health Care Law Today would like to thank Quinn Carlson, Extern, for her contributions to this article.
During President Biden’s first few weeks in office, he signed 30 executive orders (EO), many of which are designed to improve and protect the safety, well-being, and future of the United States. This blog post provides a high level summary of the top 12 executive orders related to healthcare and the Covid-19 pandemic response.
Establishes the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST must advise the President on topics relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, and racial equity.
Revokes two of former-President Trump’s executive orders that shortened the period during which people could enroll for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. In addition, this executive order directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “consider” making a Special Enrollment Period for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace so that uninsured and under-insured Americans can sign up for coverage.
Creates two new positions: 1) Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) and 2) Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response. The COVID-19 Response Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator will identify and help agencies incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing. In addition, they will provide ongoing guidance to heads of agencies on the continuity of government functions during COVID-19.
Increases the gathering, sharing, and publication of COVID-19-related data through the newly created COVID-19 Response Coordinator position. The data sharing will help create policies and responses to COVID-19 and future public health threats. The goal of this order is to further public understanding of the pandemic and to prevent the spread of misinformation.
Establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force within the HHS to address the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and other underserved populations.
Addresses the cost of COVID-19 testing by guiding the Secretary of the Treasury, the HHS, the Secretary of Labor, and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator to 1) facilitate the provision of COVID-19 testing free of charge to those who lack comprehensive health insurance, and 2) clarify group health plans' and health insurance issuers' obligations to provide coverage for COVID-19 testing.
Directs HHS and the National Institutes of Health to develop plans to 1) accelerate COVID-19 therapy development and 2) improve access to quality and affordable healthcare. This order urges various federal departments and agencies to provide targeted surge assistance to critical and long-term care facilities. HHS must also issue recommendations on how states and healthcare providers can increase their healthcare workforce capacities. Finally, this order recommends prioritizing investments in readily administered and scaled therapeutics through grants for research and development.
Requires masks in/on airports, international flights, trains, buses, and ferries.
Orders the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to 1) revise its guidance on workplace safety during COVID-19 and 2) launch a national program that will increase enforcement on workplace violations.
Requires the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of HHS and the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences to use evidence-based guidance, data collection, and technical assistance to assist schools in deciding whether and how to reopen, and how to remain open.
Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of HHS, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, among others, are directed to create a pandemic supply chain resilience strategy by securing necessary supplies and pricing, including critical materials, treatments, supplies, and resources necessary to produce and distribute tests and vaccines at scale.
All executive departments and agencies should identify actions they can take to address the current economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. The departments are instructed to specifically consider how to better use data and improve access to, reduce unnecessary barriers to, and improve coordination among programs wholly or partially funded by the federal government.
A January 28, 2021 press release from the White House states that President Biden plans to sign an executive order titled “Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad.” This order will expand access to comprehensive reproductive health and direct the HHS to take immediate action to consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program. Further, this executive order would rescinds the “global gag rule,” or the “Mexico City Policy,” which currently prevents international non-profits from receiving U.S. funding if they provide abortion counseling or referrals. As a result, this order will provide women across the country and around the world with increased health care rights and access. For more information, please see here.
A full list of President Biden’s executive orders is available here. The orders are related, but not limited to, immigration efforts, migration protection, the climate crisis, and incarceration system formation.