It’s Time To End Gridlock and Provide Everyone Affordable Health Coverage

Last week, Republicans who control the Wisconsin legislature killed the latest attempt to expand Medicaid in the state. In blocking Medicaid, the state gave up $1.6 billion in federal funding and denied coverage to 90,900 Wisconsinites.  

Wisconsin is not the only state where Republicans are denying uninsured people health coverage.The Missouri’s governor and legislature have refused to implement the 2020 ballot measure to expand Medicaid that was approved by more than 53% of Missouri voters and supposed to take effect on July 1st.Earlier this year, Republicans leading the Kansas legislature defeated efforts by Governor Laura Kelly to expand Medicaid in that state.

In addition to Missouri and Oklahoma, where voters have approved ballot measures that have yet to be implemented, twelve states continue to block efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to the residents of their states that are eligible under federal law.  In South Dakota, where health advocates have already gathered over 10,000 signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot after years of gridlock, state lawmakers led by Republican Governor Kristi Noem have gone so far as to try and change the Constitution to prevent 42,000 South Dakotans from getting health coverage. 

Medicaid expansion has reduced the number of uninsured by millions

Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, 44 million people in the United States were uninsured. The ACA brought the number of uninsured people to historical lows, by making coverage more affordable for people buying policies in the ACA marketplaces and by increasing funding and expanding eligibility for Medicaid coverage in states.  In the law’s first decade, 20 million people gained health care coverage, most through Medicaid which provided insurance for more than 12 million more people thanks to the ACA. 

Millions more are eligible for Medicaid coverage, but Republicans are blocking access

But the ACA has yet to be fully implemented in every state. So far, thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid coverage. In the remaining twelve states, state legislatures controlled by Republicans are blocking coverage for four million nonelderly adults without insurance who  would be able to get Medicaid if they lived in a different state. 

Medicaid access improves health outcomes and increases economic security. Since the ACA was enacted,Medicaid has saved at least 19,000 lives. If all states had expanded Medicaid, the number of lives saved just among older adults in 2017 would have rivaled the number of lives seatbelts saved.  Medicaid enables people to get regular preventive care, to get treatment for chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure and Medicaid is the leading payer of mental health and addiction treatment services. 

There are also significant financial benefits from Medicaid expansion. Fewer low-income adults in Medicaid expansion states struggle with medical debt and low-income renters in those states are less likely to face eviction. Medicaid expansion is associated with less debt, better credit, and increased savings.  People who gain coverage from ACA expansion have reported that it’s easier for them to find and keep jobs.

It’s time to close the coverage gap once and for all. 

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan increased incentives for states to expand Medicaid and provide enhanced services. .States would collectively receive almost $10 billion MORE than it would cost to expand Medicaid over the first two years alone–but even that has not been enough to overcome partisan politics. Republican lawmakers continue to put their political agenda ahead of healthcare for millions. 

President Biden and the 117th Congress must take stepped up action to ensure that everyone who is eligible for coverage, no matter where they live, how much money they have or which political party they voted for, can get access to affordable health coverage they need to recover from COVID, get basic services and take care of their families. 

Georgia Senators Warnock and Ossoff are urging the Administration to intervene with a federal fix to the coverage gap in the upcoming Build Back Better plan saying in a letter, “The federal government, which already funded coverage for these individuals through the Affordable Care Act, has a responsibility to step in and help these citizens who have been left behind by their state leadership.”

As the nation recovers from the worst public health crisis in generations and seeks to address gaps exposed by the crisis, there has never been a better time to ensure that the future of healthcare fully addresses the needs of every American and equips us all for a healthier and more secure future.