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Former President Obama visits the White House for the first time in 5 years

Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama arrive to deliver remarks on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.
Mandel Ngan
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AFP via Getty Images
Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama arrive to deliver remarks on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday.

Updated April 5, 2022 at 3:01 PM ET

Former President Barack Obama visited the White House Tuesday afternoon, marking the first time he's returned since leaving office five years ago.

Obama's return was pegged to an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, a signature legislative achievement under his administration. At the event, President Biden unveiled expansions to that law.

The visit comes as Biden faces the lowest approval rating of his presidency and months of low popularity and disapproval linked to his handling of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

"It is good to be back in the White House," Obama said at the event with Biden and Vice President Harris. "Nothing made me prouder than providing better health care and more protections to millions of people across this country. So when President Biden said he was not going to just celebrate the ACA but announce actions that would make it even better, I had to show up."

The White House announced a proposed removal of the "family glitch," which prevents millions of families from qualifying for subsidies on health insurance marketplaces even if one family member can access an affordable individual plan through their job.

The White House estimates that fix — which if finalized would go into effect next January — could increase insurance affordability for around one million people and give 200,000 uninsured individuals access to coverage.

"This proposed rule would amount to the most significant administrative action to improve implementation of the ACA since its enactment," the White House said in a statement Tuesday.

Biden also signed an executive order directing agencies to continue doing everything in their power to make health care more accessible and affordable and make it easier to enroll in and keep coverage.

Expanding the ACA was a core pledge of Biden's 2020 presidential campaign – a move that strayed from many progressive calls for a Medicare for All plan instead.

President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.
Charles Dharapak / AP
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AP
President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.

"We knew that we had to keep strengthening this legislation," Biden said. "The bottom line is that the American Care Act is stronger now than it's ever been."

Biden allotted $34 billion for the ACA as part of the American Rescue plan, his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. The plan included increasing access to ACA subsidies, though that provision is set to expire at the end of 2022.

In addition to Obama's attendance at the event, Biden had lunch with the former president. Their meeting comes just over three weeks after Obama announced testing positive for COVID-19.

"They are real friends, not just Washington friends," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "I'm sure they will talk about events in the world as well as their families and personal lives."

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