More than 600,000 poorest Americans could get health care following 2018 midterm results

Digital Originals

A man receives an eye exam at a free medical clinic in Texas in 2018. Photo: Lisa Chiu

Voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah have passed Medicaid expansions in the 2018 midterm elections. Nationwide, voters said health care was their top issue.

Those results, combined with gubernatorial party flips in Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin, mean that 620,000 poorest Americans could potentially receive health care under expanded Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

This shift in predominately conservative states indicates that Americans are more receptive to parts of the Affordable Care Act, despite several attempts by the Republican lawmakers to repeal Obamacare.

In Idaho, 61.6 percent of voters approved a proposition to expand coverage to people under 65 whose income was 133 percent or below of the federal poverty line.

In Nebraska, 53.1 percent of voters approved an initiative to expand Medicaid to people 138 percent or below of the poverty line.

And in Utah, 54.1 percent of voters approved also expand Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty line. The Utah measure also raised sales tax to cover the state’s portion of Medicaid costs.

It’s estimated that Medicaid will now cover 78,000 more people in Idaho, 90,000 more people in Nebraska, and 127,000 more people in Utah.

In 2018, the federal poverty level for a household of 1 person was $12,140 per year. If that level remains the same in 2019, a person would have to earn $16,753 or less to qualify for Medicaid in Utah and Nebraska, and $16,146 or less to qualify in Idaho.

The passage of the state ballot measures means that there are now only 11 states that have not approved of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

That number is likely to change with newly elected Democratic governors in Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin, who are expected to approve expanded Medicaid. If those states had expanded Medicaid programs, an additional 325,600 Americans who are currently uninsured would have access to health care, according to data from the medical consulting firm Avalere.

Bucking the shift towards expansion, 53.6 percent of voters in Montana rejected a 2018 ballot measure that would have expanded Medicaid and raise taxes on tobacco products to fund the state’s contribution to Medicaid.