How Biden Administration Executive Orders Will Affect Seniors

In the first few weeks of the Biden Administration, the President has signed into action more executive orders than any previous president – so many that it may be difficult to keep up.

Many of President Biden’s executive actions and legislative efforts are centered on the coronavirus pandemic – addressing vaccination efforts, masking, testing, and financial assistance. However, many of these initiatives tackle other aspects of American life. Below, we’ve laid out four of the biggest changes seniors can expect to encounter – as well as a few that may affect loved ones.

1. Life during the coronavirus pandemic is going to change – hopefully for the better.

One could argue that the coronavirus pandemic is the most pressing issue facing Americans. While cases have been trending downward since mid-January, there is still much work to do to get viral spread under control. To that end, seniors are among the most directly impacted by the pandemic, with fewer opportunities to socialize, a high mortality rate, and uncontrolled spread in some assisted care facilities.

Here’s the good news: the Biden Administration has made the pandemic a priority, hopefully expediting the end of this difficult time. Here are a few of the changes you should see as a result of President Biden’s first month in office.

·         You’ll get your COVID-19 vaccine faster.

Shortly after taking the Oath of Office, President Biden issued several executive actions regarding the coronavirus. One of the first involved the management and distribution of vaccines. The Biden Administration’s 5-step vaccination plan involves utilizing some of the proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus plan on emergency vaccination efforts. This involves working with states to better define priority groups, reallocating $20 billion to boost vaccination efforts, and hiring 100,000 public health workers to aid in vaccination. The plan also establishes relationships with commercial partners to help centralize a COVID-19 vaccine delivery system and guarantee a certain number of doses per week, depending on location and per-capita need.

So, what does this all mean? In short, seniors should be able to receive their vaccines faster and more easily than before. While priority group guidance still varies by state, the Biden Administration is working to distribute the funds necessary to facilitate a nationwide vaccine rollout. To that end, a successful coronavirus vaccine rollout will not only save the lives of hundreds of thousands of seniors, but it will allow seniors to get back to the activities they enjoy – spending time with friends, visiting family, and seeking healthcare at hospitals and doctors’ offices without threat of viral exposure.

·         Getting a COVID-19 test will become easier and more reliable.

In his first actions as Head of State, President Biden established the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board. This action is designed to coordinate Federal government efforts to promote diagnostic and screening testing. The Board is also designed to identify barriers to access in testing. The action also speeds up vaccine manufacturing and distribution and directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create federally supported community vaccination centers. In other words, if you’ve been having trouble accessing a COVID-19 test, it should become slightly easier to do so in the coming months.

You might be thinking: I thought we had testing figured out! Unfortunately, widespread testing has not yet been possible in the United States – there are simply too many people to test and not enough labs and technicians to process the results.

We also know that most seniors have been extremely careful during the pandemic. So, if you’re not socializing and eating at restaurants, why does testing matter to you? The truth of the matter is that widespread testing allows the government to track community spread. If you know how many people in your community have COVID-19, you can better tailor your behavior to fit that risk. So, if widespread testing is available in your community, and transmission is extremely low, you should be able to feel comfortable visiting a restaurant or a friend.

·         You’ll (probably) have to wear a mask for a while.

While not an executive order, President Biden has issued a “100-Day Masking Challenge” to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. While the Executive Branch does not have the ability to mandate national mask-wearing, they hope to inspire every American to mask up for at least 100 days. Additionally, masks are now required in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by government contractors.

If you have worn a mask these past few months, this shouldn’t change much about your life. However, you may notice more people around you are wearing a mask. Additionally, if you visit a federal building or federal lands, you will be asked to wear a mask if you are not already.

·         Travel will be tricker but safer.

On President Biden’s second day in office, he signed into order a variety of executive actions regarding traveling during the coronavirus. He reinstated restrictions to folks traveling to the United States from the Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland, and South Africa. Additionally, masks are now required in airports and on certain other modes of transportation. International travelers will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, and there is talk that U.S. airlines may begin requiring masks and negative COVID-19 tests of all passengers.

But what does this mean for seniors? If you love to travel, you should be able to do so more safely, albeit with a few more hurdles to clear. Additionally, if you have family who travels to visit you, there will be a lower chance that they have the novel coronavirus when they arrive.

Still, we recommend continuing to exercise caution until the COVID-19 transmission rate falls significantly. Visiting friends and family will look a bit different for the foreseeable future, but downward trending numbers and heightened safety precautions are steps in the right direction. 

2. America will remain on the cutting edge of medical innovation.

On his first day of office, President Biden formally announced that the United States would re-join the World Health Organization. Technically, he announced that the United States would not complete its withdrawal – members of the United Nations are required to provide 12 months’ notice to leave the World Health Organization. This means that the United States will continue to be part of the World Health Organization’s efforts to coordinate amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – to allocate medical equipment, like ventilators and personal protective equipment, as well as vaccines. The recommitment to the W.H.O. also sures up American support for certain coronavirus vaccine trials, which are taking place all over the world.

While this might not change daily life for the American senior, it helps put America on a steadier path to a post-pandemic life. To that end, democratizing medical information and technology is a key mission of the World Health Organization. By rejoining, the Biden Administration opens the door for America to collaborate on global medical research, gleaning research performed in other countries. For example, pharmaceutical company BioNTech, in partnership with Pfizer, announced the first iteration of an mRNA-driven multiple sclerosis vaccine, which could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of seniors. The lead researchers and developers on this vaccine are international; being a member of the World Health Organization allows for the democratization of those vaccines when they are ready for market.

More than anything, President Biden’s commitment to the World Health Organization is a reminder of his commitment to public health. 

3. Seniors experiencing financial hardship may find relief.

The pandemic has affected each generation differently. Some may argue that America’s seniors have had it the worst – between the high death rate amongst those over 65 and the rapid spread in senior care facilities, the older generations have been dealt a tough hand in the past year. Certain Biden Administration executive actions aim to alleviate that burden – for both seniors and younger Americans alike.

·         We know that many of our members are working members of their communities. Some like to keep social and active by working jobs, but others do so out of necessity. Whether you work for need or pleasure, your wage could increase soon. President Biden recently laid out the foundation for a $15 national minimum wage. In some states, this could nearly double hourly income.

·         For some seniors, the pandemic has limited access to food, medicine, and essential income. President Biden signed an executive order calling for assistance to any person struggling to buy food, those who are unemployed, and those who did not receive stimulus checks when they needed to. If you need help and have not received it from the Federal government, this action works to undo that inequity.

·         Our most vulnerable members are those who do not own homes, instead needing to pay monthly rent for their dwellings. We know that the pandemic may have exacerbated any financial stress you may have experienced, either through increased medical spending or lost jobs. If you are at risk of losing your home, President Biden extended the eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021. This will hopefully allow our most vulnerable members some additional time to apply for and receive help. 

4. Your loved ones will see an impact, too.

We know most seniors are interested in how the Biden Administration’s recent actions will affect their lives. But we recognize that seniors have loved ones in different age groups and generations. Some recent legislative efforts might not directly affect seniors, but they could drastically affect the lives of those we love. Here are a few legislative agenda items that could impact friends, family, and those in your Circle of Care.

·         A new executive order prevents workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. If you have children or grandchildren in the workforce, this will help bolster their protection while on the job.

·         An executive order has reopened enrollment on from Feb. 15 through May 15, 2021. The order also directs federal agencies to re-examine policies that may reduce or undermine access to the Affordable Care Act. While we know many of our members are on Medicare, some younger members may rely on the marketplace to receive health insurance. To that end, families will now have expanded access to medical care through this widened sign-up window.

·         An executive action has recommitted federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with tribal governments. This could pave the way to land protections for our members who are members of indigenous communities and cultures in the United States.

·         A January executive order aimed to acknowledge the rise in discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the past year, most of which was a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to consider issuing guidance on best practices to improve cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity toward these groups in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. The order also directs the Department of Justice to partner with these communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment.