President Joe Biden sold the twin pillars of his American Rescue Plan and the Affordable Care Act as forging the way toward making affordable health care a right during remarks Tuesday at the James Cancer Hospital on the Ohio State University campus.
Speaking on the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act while he served as vice president to Barack Obama, Biden stressed the steps the relief act takes to expand health care and make insurance coverage more affordable.
Marketplace plans for Obamacare with premiums of $10 a month or less due to subsidies with Rescue Plan dollars will extend health care to millions, Biden said. "We're becoming a nation where health care is a right and not for the privileged few."
Biden announced Tuesday the special enrollment period for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act has been extended three months, through Aug. 15.
Biden's COVID-19 relief law pumps up premium subsidies to address problems of affordability, particularly for people with middle-class incomes. More taxpayer assistance means that consumers who buy their own policies through HealthCare.gov will pay hundreds of dollars less out of pocket.
The package also covers 100% of COBRA insurance premiums for people who lost their jobs and expands Medicaid coverage for low-income families.
"With the American Rescue Plan and Affordable Care Act, millions of families may be able to sleep more soundly at night and they don't have to worry about losing everything they have saved," Biden said.
The president also noted that the American Rescue Plan pumps up funding for vaccine doses, sites and vaccinators and repeated his pledge that 600 million doses will be in arms or available by the end of May to vaccinate every adult.
"Get vaccinated when it is your turn. It is a patriotic responsibility. Now is not the time let down our guard," Biden said. "If we all do our part, after a long dark year, we can show once again we are the United States of America,' he said while emphasizing "United."
Biden has been stumping the states in a "Help is Here" tour selling highlights of his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act funding the fight against, and fallout from, COVID-19 and seeking to stimulate the economy, including $1,400 checks to many Americans.
The visit was Biden's first as president to Ohio, which he lost by eight percentage points to incumbent Donald Trump in the general election last fall as he ousted the Republican from the Oval Office in the national vote.
After being greeted by Ohio State University and Wexner Medical Center leaders, Biden toured the radiology oncology treatment center at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital with Dr. Arnab Chakravarti, a radiation oncologist, and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township.
The doctor told Biden about the "bell of hope" that honors cancer patients, with Biden replying, "Unfortunately, I'm pretty familiar with the bell" in a reference to the brain cancer death of his son, Beau.
Biden also talked of dogs playing a role in detecting cancer (they can detect some forms through smell) and said, "Dogs can help cure cancer. Not a joke ... it's a fascinating thing."
The James received a $100 million Affordable Care Act grant in 2011 that expanded its capacity to provide radiation cancer treatment from about 70 patients a day to 300 patients, many from underserved groups and rural areas, a White House spokesman said. New proton technology has reduced treatment time from six to eight weeks to one week.
Prior to his arrival on campus, Biden met at John Glenn Columbus International Airport with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, who had said he planned to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. The two men formerly served together in the U.S. Senate.
Also greeting Biden: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley; Columbus-area Democrats Sen. Tina Maharath, Sen. Hearcel Craig and Rep. Kristin Boggs; Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein; Gina Mobley, mother of the late Springdale Police Officer Kaia Grant and Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.
New Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik denounced Biden's visit to Columbus as a "public relations stunt," saying his time should be devoted to resolving the "humanitarian crisis" of immigrants flocking to the U.S. from Mexico due to his "open borders" policy.
Paduchik criticized Biden's relief package, which passed amid Republican opposition in Congress, as having little to do with COVID-19 aid.
"It's about Democrat pork. It's about saving Democratic cities and bailing out blue states," he said. "These are taxpayers' dollars and not Joe Biden's or Nancy Pelosi's or Chuck Schumer's slush fund."
Ohio is expected to receive more than $11 billion in aid under Biden's package, including routing funding to the state, local governments and schools whose budgets have been strained amid the pandemic.