Tuesday saw a flurry of Election Day victories for progressive values, but key among them was that voters want to protect and expand access to healthcare.
Indeed, health care was the defining issue in several races; in Virginia, exit polls showed 2 out of 5 voters identified health care as their top concern – far more than any other issue in the exit poll. Of these voters, nearly 80 percent went for winner Ralph Northam, a Democrat who’s pledged to expand Medicaid and who supports the Affordable Care Act. Anecdotes poured in from voters who said they were motivated to vote for a candidate who supports health care in response to repeated attempts by the Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress to either block coverage expansion or roll back the Affordable Care Act.
In Maine, after years of obstruction by Governor Paul LePage, including at least five vetoes by LePage of Medicaid expansion passed by the Maine legislature, the people of Maine issued a final rebuke via ballot measure.
Maine now joins 31 states and D.C. in adopting Medicaid expansion. Woot!
This is a HUGE victory for the people of Maine, as over 70,000 Mainers living at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level will now be eligible for Medicaid. The measure is especially important for Maine women and families. Women make up the majority of Medicaid enrollees and Medicaid provides crucial health care coverage for them. Medicaid covers a range of services, including birth control, maternity care, prescription drugs, hospitalization, and long-term care, that address many of women’s major health needs throughout their lives. Prior to Tuesday’s ballot measure, LePage’s obstructionism cost women coverage. In addition to providing crucial health coverage for women, the program plays a critically important role in advancing women’s economic security through directly supporting women’s jobs and by providing health insurance coverage that enables women to work. This is true across the country, and in Maine specifically, where in 2015 alone, Medicaid supported over 20,000 jobs for women in the healthcare industry—or 26% of healthcare sector jobs held by women.
Tuesday’s ballot measure signals widespread support for Medicaid expansion, and promises to extend coverage to much of Maine’s uninsured population. The broader message in Tuesday’s election results: Protecting and expanding access to Healthcare matters to voters, and politicians who don’t prioritize healthcare access may find the rug pulled out from under them.