What You Need to Know About Medicaid Expansion After the 2018 Elections

In the recent midterm elections, voters in three red states decided to expand Medicaid. Not only did the move show motivation to help the poor access affordable health care, but it also suggested that safety net programs can sometimes have bipartisan support.

Idaho, Nebraska and Utah opted to extend the government insurance program to cover an estimated 325,000 more low-income Americans. Supporters, including Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter, endorsed the move for its life-saving potential.

“Most of us are ecstatic,” Utah resident Grant Burningham told NPR. He’s been working for health care access ever since he lost his job, home and insurance after getting really sick after a devastating allergic reaction in 2001. “We were all together and hugging and kissing last night.”

Separating Medicaid from the Affordable Care Act was a key political move that helped expansion happen. Even though the health care reform law tried to make Medicaid more inclusive, just a handful of Republican governors opted to increase the program’s coverage in their states, at first.

As time goes by, fewer people are relating Medicaid to former President Barack Obama’s health care law. According to a Boise State University poll, 35 percent of Idaho voters were said they approved of Obamacare. In contrast, 75 percent supported the Proposition Two ballot initiative for expansion. Rural hospitals have declared that more Medicaid recipients might keep their doors open.

What’s Next for Medicaid Expansion?

The voters have spoken, but the states still have to nail down how they’re going to make Medicaid expansion happen. Will there be work requirements? How will the states’ portion of the costs be funded?

The federal government pays for 90 percent of Medicaid expenses. Utah, for one, has opted to increase its sales tax to cover the remainder. It’s the equivalent of 1.5 cents more for every $10 spent on items that aren’t food.

But the work of health care access advocates work is far from over. Deliberations over how Medicaid expansion works on the ground are likely to be heated. Plus, more than a dozen states across the country still have no plans to expand Medicaid.

In the meantime, sick people continue to suffer – and even go bankrupt and die – without health insurance.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

24 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

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Shirley P
Shirley Plowman2 months ago

ALL MUST HELP THOSE NEEDY IN THIS!!!!!

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Colin C
Colin C3 months ago

Thanks for the information. Probably health care as in Universal Health Care should be Federal and not State based but this seems like a good start.

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Debbi W
Debbi W3 months ago

Anne M. is right. What we need is Medicare 4 All. Everyone would be able to see a doctor when they get sick. It would be less expensive for the government to manage, it is already set up. The republicans simply don't want to admit it's a great idea. They'd rather fight over cutting funds that could kill people.

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Anne Moran
Anne Moran3 months ago

Expand it to ''Universal'' health care - where no one gets left behind...

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Alea C
Alea C3 months ago

Florida politicians have made it abundantly clear that we will never have Medicaid expansion no matter how many times the voters say they want it.

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Brian F
Brian F3 months ago

Wesley Struebing The point is that we need to solve our medical crisis. Millions of people die each year because they can't afford Medical care. Medicaid provides people health coverage via the government. (Medicaid covers low-income Americans, Medicare covers elderly Americans, and Medicare-for-all would cover all Americans, period.) Eligibility for Medicare is set at the national level: a relatively straightforward matter of your age and when you want to retire. Medicaid eligibility varies from state to state: Different state governments have different income thresholds for children, for adults, for pregnant women, etc. It can be frustrating. Medicare for all as proposed by Bernie Sanders is better than expanding Medicaid. Let's support the best solution to our healthcare problems, which is Medicare for all, which most people support. Sure expanding Medicaid to all 50 states is better than the horrible failed Republican plan Obama gave us, but Medicare for all as proposed by Bernie Sanders, is a much simpler straight forward plan that is administered by the Federal government. Medicaid is run by both national and state governments. We can't leave our healthcare needs in the hands of states, which may cut benefits in the future. The Federal government needs to control healthcare to ensure it is given to everyone fairly. So Medicare for all, is the solution, and not Medicaid expansion.

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Wesley S
Wesley S3 months ago

Brian F, we're talking about Medicaid, not Medicare. They actually are two distinct entities.

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Wesley S
Wesley S3 months ago

And while we still have "privatized" Medicaid, we also have a new state Auditor, who has made it his FIRST priority when he takes office in January to thoroughly audit the fiasco called Iowa Medicaid. We already know the Guv and her cohorts lie to us; we'll soon know how badly they lie. Go, Rob!

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Brian F
Brian F3 months ago

We need Medicare for all as proposed by Bernie Sanders, and supported by most people in the country.

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