With open enrollment season set to begin November 15th this year, the prospect of obtaining affordable health insurance still eludes millions of Americans, especially those living in states with no Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but much of its success relies heavily on Medicaid being expanded to cover additional low-income demographics. Currently, these eligible individuals are being left out of both the subsidy program and Medicaid.
Unfortunately for millions across the U.S., 23 states in the Union rejected the expansion based on a 2012 Supreme Court Ruling which allowed them to opt out of providing additional coverage. These states have Republican governors or Republican-controlled legislatures who believe the costs of providing universal health care will have to be included their budgets. The ACA has allocated millions of dollars to insure these additional Americans, so rejection of these funds reflect a divided and obstinate political ideology.
According to new data from Enroll America and Civis Analytics, Upshot analysis has calculated that over three million people would now be insured if these states had made provisions for their inclusion. The odds of having insurance are significantly lower in states like Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, and Maine. The two poorest states in the U.S., Louisiana and Mississippi, have the highest uninsured rates at more than 15 percent of their total population. All of these states declined the federal initiatives to expand coverage for their most vulnerable constituents.
Overwhelmingly, Democratic candidates and politicians have voiced their support for expanding Medicaid programs in these states. With the midterm elections being held Tuesday, many of these states may enable a Democratic victory to overturn Republican policies against the health insurance expansion. Depending on the results of Tuesday’s election, some states may now be able to receive billions in federal funding to continue lowering the uninsured rate.
The states up for grabs spread across the South and North. In Maine, Michael Michaud is the Democratic candidate hopeful about overturning Republican Governor Paul LePage’s triple veto against the state expanding Medicaid. Former Governor Charlie Crist is hoping to oust Governor Rick Scott who has failed to follow through on his resolve to expand health insurance. The unpopularity of Governor Sam Brownback in Kansas may help Democrat Paul Davis clinch the position and fulfill his promise to legislate healthcare for 100,000 of his constituents. In Georgia, Democrat Jason Carter could defeat Governor Nathan Deal and help 650,000 Georgians get health insurance coverage under the ACA.
Other states in the running include Wisconsin where Mary Burke may defeat Governor Scott Walker, and Tennessee, South Dakota, and Wyoming, which may still develop health insurance plans under cooperative Republican Governors. Millions in each of these states are hoping for some plan to be crafted that will allow them to partake of the health care benefits extended to all Americans. Not expanding Medicaid to include them has proven to be a major issue of continued financial insecurity for some. Medical bills can leave an already low income family struggling to keep up with financial obligations. Expanding health insurance for over three million Americans would make having coverage less elusive and boost the economy significantly.
In contrast, there are those states that decided to expand Medicaid coverage so that health insurance does not continue to elude millions of their citizens. Both Colorado and Minnesota opened their own health exchanges to accommodate their residents. Though both experienced issues with online registrations and backlogs of paper applications, their insured rates have dropped below previous levels. Minnesota’s uninsured rate is currently at 7.3 percent while Colorado’s is at 8.6 percent. Both states have a lower uninsured rate than the national average of 11.5 percent.
By Didi Anofienem