Donald Trump’s tweets make clear that he is a terrible egomaniac and likely a criminal. But his administration’s legal maneuvers are what really mark his presidency as an assault on the well-being of average Americans. On Thursday evening, the White House announced that it joined a GOP lawsuit that seeks to fully dismantle the Affordable Care Act. While the Trump administration is only seeking to have some of the Affordable Care Act thrown out, it is targeting the most popular provision: barring insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions.
This is a particular danger to low-income Americans, who historically have been in worse health — the link between economic and medical hardship is very direct. That the House of Representatives this week also voted to cut $7 billion from the massively successful and universally popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers 9 million kids nationwide, makes it more clear than ever that we are in an all-out class war.
Healthcare is shaping up to be the number one issue in November’s election, with the power to shape electorates. This week, we want to look at the great campaigns that are going on the offensive, working to expand Medicaid in states that have refused to do so thus far.
Initially, the Affordable Care Act required states to expand Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income Americans. Another lawsuit filed by heartless conservatives who hate poor people turned it into a voluntary initiative, and thus far, 32 states have followed through with the expansion, the most recent being Virginia and Maine. The expansion in Maine was triggered by a very successful ballot initiative, and this year, there are several more states with campaigns working hard to get a Medicaid expansion on the ballot.
These are not typically Democratic states, but they have strong grassroots community leaders who are reaching across partisan lines to promote a public good. And so far, it’s looking good.
In Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts has not only actively worked against Medicaid expansion, he’s also tried to gut funding to the existing program with vetoes. With little hope of a legislative expansion, the nonprofit Nebraska Appleseed kicked off the Insure the Good Life campaign, which is trying to get the issue on this November’s ballot.
“A majority of Nebraskans support Medicaid expansion,” Meg Mandy, the program director for Insure the Good Life, told Progressives Everywhere. “That is why we decided to bring this directly to voters, and why we feel we are in a strong position to qualify the measure and win in November.”
Mandy says they began collecting signatures in April, and as of early last week, they were halfway to the number needed to qualify for the ballot. The signatures are due on July 5th, and Mandy says they’re on target to beat the deadline. Nebraska ranks 27th in the US in access to healthcare, so victory in November would provide a major boost.
“Expanding Medicaid will give 90,000 hardworking Nebraskans access to critical, life-saving care,” Mandy said. “We know that regular visits to the doctor and preventive care leads to better health outcomes. It’s especially beneficial for earlier diagnosis and treatment of conditions like diabetes, cancer, and mental health issues.”
In Idaho, the campaign is truly a bottom-up, grassroots effort. The progressive group Reclaim Idaho decided last summer that they’d barnstorm the state in a 1977 RV, turning their campaign to expand Medicaid into a grassroots event. Volunteers collected signatures on both the ballot petition and the RV itself, earning tons of statewide attention and ultimately doing what was said to be almost impossible: securing over 60,000 signatures from voters 18 of the 35 districts in Idaho, qualifying for the ballot this November.
The achievement itself is a major one: Idaho Republicans had made the already difficult requirements for getting an initiative on the ballot even more onerous after a 2013 citizen vote on a simple education matter didn’t go their way. This marks the first initiative to even get on the ballot since those changes. Idaho faces 27% premium increases this year, making this a very attractive option to both Democrats and Republicans.
The third Medicaid expansion ballot initiative is in Utah, where things are a bit different.
After years of being shut down by a far-right state legislature, a partial expansion of Medicaid was approved earlier this year. But it’s unclear whether the federal government, even under Trump, will accept its controversial provision that limits coverage to people who make poverty wages — just $12,140 a year — and below. The Affordable Care Act provides help for people making up to 138% percent, which is not great, but far better than Utah’s bill.
Unwilling to accept a half-measure, a coalition of activists collected signatures to get a full Medicaid expansion on the ballot this November. Utah Decides rounded up support from 140,000 people and last month qualified for the ballot, bringing the state one step closer to providing medical care to 150,000 new people — double the amount the legislature’s bill would cover.
Here’s what’s so significant: two-thirds of Utahns support Medicaid expansion. That’s two-thirds of a very, very red state supporting a policy that Republicans have blocked for years and advocated for by Democrats. Yes, the governor there wants to expand it to some degree, but this is a much more substantial expansion that people support — and it helps to show them that Democrats aren’t lib’rul monsters, but people who are compassionate and want to help their families.