SEATTLE (AP) — Riding the momentum from November’s elections, Democratic leaders in the states are wasting no time delivering on their biggest campaign promise — to expand access to health care and make it more affordable.
The first full week of state legislative sessions and swearings-in for governors saw a flurry of proposals.
In his initial actions, newly elected California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to expand Medicaid to those in the country illegally up to age 26, implement a mandate that everyone buy insurance or face a fine, and consolidate the state’s prescription drug purchases in the hope that it will dramatically
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a public health insurance option for people who are not covered by Medicaid or private employers and have trouble affording policies on the private market.
Democrats in several states where they now control the legislature and governor’s office, including New Mexico, are considering ways that people who are uninsured but make too much to qualify for Medicaid or other subsidized coverage can buy Medicaid policies.
And in the nation’s most populous city, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a publicly run plan to link the uninsured, who already receive treatment in city hospitals, with primary care.
It’s all in keeping with the main theme Democratic candidates promoted on the campaign trail in 2018.
They touted the benefits of former President Barack Obama’s health overhaul — such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies and expanded coverage options for lower-income Americans. At the same time, they painted Republicans as seeking to eliminate or greatly reduce health care options and protections.
“Once you give something to somebody, it’s pretty hard to take it away, and I think we see that with how the support for the (Affordable Care Act) has grown over the last two years,” said Washington House Rep. Eileen Cody, who is leading the state’s public option proposal.
The actions also represent a pushback to steps taken by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP tax law stripped away the individual mandate, which was intended to stabilize insurance markets by encouraging younger and healthier people to buy policies. And last summer, the Trump administration said it would freeze payments under an “Obamacare” program that protects insurers with sicker patients from financial losses. That move is expected to contribute to higher premiums.
The Democratic proposals fall short of providing universal health care, a goal of many Democrats but also an elusive one because of its cost.