THIS WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, Nov. 5th – Friday, Nov. 9th

November 9, 2018 by B. Cameron Webb, MD, JD

THIS WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, November 5th – Friday, November 9th

Little known fact: elections took place around the country this week. Yes, it is a bit of an understatement to say that the midterm election on Tuesday stirred things up a bit. The Democrats took over as the majority party in the House of Representatives, while the Republican party expanded it’s majority in the Senate. Of the 36 gubernatorial elections this year, Democrats picked up seven governorships, bringing the party to a total of 23 governors compared to 26 Republican governors (with Georgia still hanging in the balance). All told, though, most expect that these elections will have significant impacts on healthcare. From the future of the Affordable Care Act to the 2020 Census, this year’s election will continue resonate for the next few years.

One interesting development in this week’s election was the latest evolution of the ever-changing Medicaid landscape across the country. Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voted to finally adopt the Medicaid expansion, extending the program to able-bodied, childless adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). In total, Medicaid expansion is set to grow by almost half a million Americans through those ballot initiatives alone. Factor in Democratic victories in the Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin gubernatorial races, and we are no doubt headed toward the largest expansion of the program since 2014. It wasn’t a complete coup for Medicaid expansion enthusiasts, though, as voters in Montana rejected a proposal to raise taxes on tobacco and e-cigarettes to continue funding the state’s expansion of Medicaid, leaving 100,000 Montanans at risk of losing coverage.

We’ll wrap up our coverage of the 2018 midterm elections with an overview of a few more ways that health and healthcare were impacted by voters this week. First, the abortion debate kicked into high gear as West Virginia’s Medicaid is no longer covering abortions, Alabama’s constitution no longer states abortion as a right, and Oregon voted to allow taxpayer dollars to fund abortion coverage for public health plans. Next, also on the state level, Maine voters struck down a measure that would have provided free at home services for elderly patients that require long term care. Finally, keep an eye out for a renewed Democrat effort to defend pre-existing conditions, as well as the development of new plans for a bipartisan effort to reduce prescription drug prices.

Beyond politics, one tragic story that deserves mentioning is yet another fatal mass shooting–this time at a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, California. And although gun violence remaining a key policy—and public health—issue to many around the country, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sent out a tweet the day before this most recent shooting advising doctors to “stay in their lane” when it comes to gun control issues. This was in response to a recent American College of Physicians (ACP) position paper about expanding the public health approach to gun violence prevention. We will see if the movement in the composition of Congress and state governments will set the stage for more conversation on gun control in the coming months.

We’ll end this week with a shout out to the Notorious RBG. Wishing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a speedy recovery from her recent rib fractures. Rumor has it that she’s a huge fan of the Viewpoints blog…at least, that’s what we heard!

See you next week!

 


Student Contributors on this Article:
Marissa Alvarez, Chad Fletcher, Shaina Haque, Virginia Wright