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Removing Systemic Barriers to Health Care is Critical to Building a More Equitable Society

WASHINGTON — Today, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives passed much-needed legislation to significantly strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace plans and the Medicaid program. Among other critical provisions, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act (PPACEA) improves Medicaid for new moms and the doctors who serve them; makes coverage on ACA marketplaces more accessible by expanding premium assistance and reducing out-of-pocket costs; and helps recipients of DACA get the insurance they need.  

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the needs of communities across the country and the world grow every day. In the U.S., Black and Latinx people are facing the harshest consequences of the virus — systemic inequities put them in harm’s way more often as “essential workers” and create barriers between them and the health care they need. Racism has been ever-present in our health care system, and improving access to care for people of color is a critical part of the fight for racial equity. 

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the systemic racism that permeates all levels of our health care systems — disparities that too often leave people of color and people with low incomes behind. Now more than ever, we need to increase equity in health care access and expand it for those most likely to have been failed by our system, including women of color, young people, transgender and nonbinary people, and DACA recipients. We applaud the House for passing this critical legislation and will continue to fight against this administration and its allies as they challenge the ACA in court — because if they succeed, they would only increase barriers to care. We need our policy makers focused on improving health care access for all, and call on the Senate to take up this bill without delay. While more work remains ahead of us, the Affordable Care Enhancement Act takes important steps towards ensuring that the people who need care — people of every race and income level — can get it.”

The Affordable Care Enhancement Act contains many important improvements to the Medicaid program. Among them, it helps address the maternal mortality crisis by expanding Medicaid coverage for people up to a full year after they give birth and better supporting OB/GYNs and nurse practitioners providing essential primary care. It also encourages states to expand Medicaid; if the 14 remaining states expanded Medicaid, about 4.7 million adults would gain eligibility in 2021.

The bill would also drastically expand premium assistance and reduce out-of-pocket costs for people who purchase insurance through ACA marketplaces. It requires the administration to resume outreach and enrollment efforts so people know when they’re able to sign up for insurance. And it would recognize the rights of DACA recipients, allowing them to enroll in marketplace coverage and receive financial assistance.


Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.