Midterms 2018: The Health Care Election

Voters prioritized health issues, supported candidates that vow to protect our health care, and elected a Governor that campaigned on a plan to expand access to care

On Tuesday, voters sent a clear, unambiguous message to their elected officials: protect our health care against the repeals and rollbacks attempted over the last two years, and work to expand coverage and consumer protections. Across California and the nation, voters prioritized health care issues, from protecting the ACA and people with pre-existing conditions, to expanding Medicaid and coverage in general.

ACA ACCOUNTABILITY: Poll after polled showed health care was at the top of mind for voters. This was reflected in campaign ads across the country where over half focused on health care, particularly protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Even Representatives who voted many times to sabotage our coverage felt they had to run away from their record, and affirmatively state their support for key coverage programs and protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In California, where all 14 Congressional Republicans voted for a repeal bill that was disproportionately bad for their state’s health system and constituents, many of them faced the race of their political lives. Two retired, and at least two more were defeated because of that vote and their stance on health care generally.

THE ACA IS HERE TO STAY: As a result of two years of patients and the public protesting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, followed by a now historic change of Congressional control largely fueled by health care voters, the ACA is here to stay. This election means that for at least the next two years, Congress won’t be actively trying to take away our health care, our coverage, or our consumer protections. Not only is our health care system protected from Congressional sabotage, but voters around the country, even in the reddest of states, voted to increase access to care by expanding Medicaid, or voted for Governors who would do so.

PROGRESS BEYOND PROTECTING OUR GAINS: In California, we have taken aggressive advantage of the benefits of the ACA which has led to the biggest drop of the uninsured of all 50 states. To respond to voters, California leaders should do more than just protect our progress on health care, but take new, big steps forward to get to a universal, affordable, and accountable health care system, despite the federal barriers. With health care as a top issue, Californians elected a Governor and a State Legislature with a mandate and momentum to take bold steps on universal coverage. California’s new leadership can and must take action to expand access to our Medi-Cal program, improve affordability assistance in Covered California, and place more oversight on the health industry for better quality and equity with lower prices.

Read more: The #Care4AllCA campaign to get our state to universal coverage now.

NEW MOMENTUM IN THE LEGISLATURE: Californians in the Central Valley elected health care advocate Melissa Hurtado, a former Health Access colleague who left the organization to run for State Senate, unseating a powerful incumbent. She ran on health issues including her work to increase transparency on prescription drug prices, lowering insurance premiums, and enacting greater consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions. She was attacked in multiple mail pieces for her connection with Health Access, but ultimately a health care consumer advocate was what the Central Valley needed. The election of Governor Newsom and new members like Senator Hurtado provides more momentum for a big health care agenda this legislative session.

PROPOSITIONS: Voters supported the agenda to protect our care even through propositions, rejecting the harmful Proposition 5 that would have cut county budgets, putting education, health care and other vital safety net programs at risk. Like with the federal tax bill that passed, voters recognized generally that something sold as a tax cut may not benefit them directly, but will force cuts to key projects and services.

As Washington continues to launch litigation and administrative attacks on our health care system, California voters will look to Sacramento to take action on health care prices, access to coverage, and patient protections. Californians voted like their health care depended on it, sending a signal to all policymakers to prioritize making progress on this issue in the new year.

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