Healthcare a Big Issue in Tuesday’s Election. Will Washington Get the Message?

When Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) took a stand against GOP bills to repeal the ACA, she was reading her electorate right. This week Maine became the first state to vote to expand Medicaid with a ballot initiative. By an overwhelming margin, Maine voters chose to expand Medicaid to an estimated 70,000 low-income residents. As reported by the Washington Post, this was despite the active opposition of the state’s Republican governor Paul LePage (who now says he will try to block the initiative from taking effect, although it’s not clear that he can).

Healthcare proved to be an important issue to voters in elections across the country -- most notably, the closely-watched race for governor in Virginia. In an exit poll, when voters were asked which of five issues mattered most in their choice of governor, “health care” was selected by 39%, far more than any of the other issues. Among those who said it was a top issue, 77% voted for the Democrat Ralph Northam.

As we’ve noted here, with no attractive replacement proposal on the table, employer opinion had moved away from a full repeal of the ACA. Employers are especially concerned that Medicaid cuts that result in fewer people insured will drive up cost in group plans as providers seek to recoup losses from uncompensated care. This week’s election results suggest that preserving – and expanding – gains made under the ACA in increasing access to affordable healthcare coverage has become a motivating factor for an growing number of US voters.

Beth Umland
by Beth Umland

Director of Research, Health, Mercer

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