Medicaid expansion may go to the ballot box in three states

About Joanne Kenen

Contributing editor to Politico Magazine and former health care editor-at-large, Politico, Commonwealth Fund journalist in residence and assistant lecturer at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Photo: joelip via Flickr

Advocates in three conservative states – Utah, Idaho and Nebraska – are trying to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in November.

Organizers in Utah already have submitted signatures, which are now being verified. They have surplus signatures so odds are that they will make it. According to an article by Dylan Scott of Vox, a recent poll by the Salt Lake Tribune and the University of Utah found 62 percent of Utah voters support the ballot initiative.

“People want more health care — not less,” Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of the Fairness Project, a left-leaning economic justice group supporting the initiative, said in a statement quoted in Scott’s story. “They are done with politicians who are not addressing their top concerns, and they are taking action to do something about it.”

In Idaho, organizers have until April 30 to submit the signatures. In Nebraska they have until July.

Even if these initiatives get on the ballot — and win — the lessons of Maine show expansion opponents don’t graciously accept defeat. Maine’s legislature had repeatedly approved expansion to cover some 80,000 low-income adults, but Gov. Paul LePage, a tea party sympathizer, always vetoes it. Last November, voters easily approved expansion — but LePage, in his last year of office, is still blocking it. (Rachana Pradhan of Politico has the latest).This being an Affordable Care Act provision, don’t be surprised if the dispute ends up in court.

The only state legislature considering expansion is Virginia, which saw big Democratic gains in its last elections. There also has been some speculation North Carolina would follow suit, but it does not seem imminent.

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