Tuesday’s election results were historic for women in politics. But it’s not just getting closer towards having our government look more like the people it represents that was a win for women. In Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah, voters decided that their states should expand Medicaid for individuals up to 138% of the federal poverty level. These election results aren’t just abstract. They mean that approximately 325,000 more people – a third of whom are women – will soon be eligible for Medicaid coverage that is critical to their health and economic security.
By way of background, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid eligibility expansion enables states to cover low-income women regardless of whether they have children or a specific health condition. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court made that expansion optional, and as of yesterday, 17 states had not expanded Medicaid, leaving millions of women in the health coverage gap because they make too little money to qualify for assistance on the health insurance marketplaces, but too much money to qualify for traditional Medicaid.
Expanded Medicaid coverage will mean so much for people who fall in the coverage gap in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. Medicaid covers a range of services – birth control, maternity care, prescription drugs, hospitalization, long-term care, and more – that address many of women’s major health needs throughout their lives. At the same time, Medicaid 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. (There are some cases where Medicaid coverage may fail to meet women’s health needs. Most notably, due to federal restrictions, Medicaid in these three state will not cover abortion services, except in very limited circumstances.)
Much remains to be seen about how quickly Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah will take action to implement Medicaid expansion. And, unfortunately, Montana’s ballot initiative to prevent the roll back its existing Medicaid expansion failed. But the majority of voters across these states have spoken and made clear that health care coverage is important to them. Ensuring that they and their neighbors have coverage so that they can stay healthy and get care when they need it is a clear priority. Now, we’re celebrating their health coverage gains, and we will continue the push to make sure everyone who should have Medicaid coverage as a result of these expansions gets it.