As state voters lead on Medicaid, could health care be the next gay marriage?
Trump and Congress are trying to slash Medicaid. But Americans in both red and blue states are making clear they want to expand health care, not cut it.
Since the day Donald Trump took office, he and Republicans in Congress have had government health care programs like Medicaid in their sights. And reactions across the country, highlighted by recent special elections in Pennsylvania and Alabama, suggest this is backfiring in a spectacular way. Their policies are so out of line with public thinking that the more they push them, the higher the likelihood that they put the country on an inevitable path to Medicaid, Medicare or some other health care plan that is ubiquitous and available to all.
Take Medicaid. Since Trump’s election, Congress has relentlessly attempted to slash the program, which covers one in five Americans. After failing to cap it and cut its funding by one-fifth over the next decade, Trump again called for cuts in his State of the Union address. The Trump administration has also given states the green light to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says will result in “less access to care, worse health outcomes, and less financial security.”
So far, three states — Kentucky, Indiana and Arkansas — have won approval for their work requirements and seven more have pending requests with the Trump administration. Nearly 640,000 people would be vulnerable to losing their health coverage if all 10 states go ahead with work requirements.
While these efforts will hurt many families, the real story of the impact of this continued assault has been to significantly increase Medicaid’s popularity and cause Americans in large numbers to press for expanding its availability. According to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, 84% of Americans now want to continue the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion to people slightly above the poverty line.
For good reason. States that expanded Medicaid have seen their citizens’ health and financial outcomes improve and have helped rural hospitals and the economy, while providing a lifeline for single mothers and helping states combat the opioid epidemic.
Perhaps the most significant response is that in many parts of the country, citizens are turning to local ballot initiatives to deliver the changes they want but aren’t getting from political leaders. In the reliably red states of Utah and Idaho, for example, initiatives to expand Medicaid coverage are making their way to the November ballot. Polling shows the efforts to be highly popular, with support across the political spectrum.