(KTXL) — U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra made his first public appearance back in California since President Joe Biden appointed him to the position.
“Health care in America should be a right, not a privilege,” Becerra said Monday while helping launch Covered California’s open enrollment period to sign up for health insurance.
The program is the state’s insurance marketplace for those without a group plan. Becerra noted with help from Biden’s American Rescue Plan, premiums this year are lower.
Covered California was created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which Becerra defended in court when he was California’s attorney general and is the program he oversees in his new role.
“More Americans are getting health insurance coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act and here, Covered California,” Becerra explained. “Today, we have over 12 million Americans who have medical insurance because of the work done under the affordable care act.”
As COVID-19 continues to be a concern for state and federal leaders, many private health insurers are no longer waiving out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment.
Becerra said the Biden administration will continue to support testing and vaccinations.
“We will not stop our efforts to try to defeat COVID. And as we’ve seen, COVID is a real rascal and the delta variant has made things very difficult. We’re going to be on the watch, we’re going to be working with our partners and doing everything we can,” Becerra said.
Becerra is the first Latino U.S. health and human services secretary. He said his department is boosting outreach in numerous languages and working on expanding access to health services to all, regardless of immigration status.
“The president has also presented a plan to reform our broken immigration system to make sure that we’re treating everyone the right way,” he said. “I hope that what we can continue to say, under President Biden’s watch, that we’ll continue to see more affordable care for more people in this country.”
California’s open enrollment period ends Jan. 1.