Voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska — all red states — approved the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare rules during the 2018 midterm elections. These expansions will effectively boost health care coverage rates to children whose parents are earning at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty rate — meaning a family of four earning around $35,000 a year will now be covered. The red state Medicaid votes, which come in the wake of numerous attempts by congressional Republicans to repeal Obamacare, indicate that healthcare is no longer a partisan club with which the right can assault the left. Americans want to protect and strengthen provisions of the Affordable Care Act that help to keep American kids and parents healthy.
Yes, that means that we basically agree on something. Stop the presses.
The Medicaid expansions will be a particular relief to parents who rely on employers to cover children. Where once they might have stayed in terrible jobs to keep coverage, they now have a safety net that frees them a low-key employment hostage situation. But the expansions will also mean healthier kids. Consider data from the national Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which looks at American healthcare coverage, which found that children are 29 percent more likely to receive well-child visits when parents are enrolled in Medicaid. In very practical terms, that means hundreds of thousands of children whose development was not being monitored will now be seeing doctors.
These votes, particularly coming from red states, are a repudiation of conservative politicians who have fought to roll back and extinguish funding for healthcare. Remember, it was Republican members of Congress who allowed funding for the Medicaid-funded Child Health Insurance Program to lapse earlier this year. It was also Republican members who decided to place limits on matching federal funds for CHIP, and a Republican president who attempted to cut $7 billion from the program in May.
The message is pretty resounding: Americans want healthcare coverage for themselves and their children. Going forward, Republicans will need to recalibrate and focus on how to make health care more accessible rather than focussing on cutting both taxes and needed services.
The fight against Obamacare has been a tone-deaf ideological boondoggle for a while. And that fight has now cost conservatives the House. Hopefully, the loss is enough of smack to help them remember that government can do more than shrink — it can help. Healthcare continues to shine as one of the few issues all Americans can find some agreement on. That’s a rare and wonderful phenomenon, and hopefully, Republicans will begin to see the merit of investing in our health care for the benefit of the country.