In November, millions of voters across the red, blue and purple states voted directly on the ballot on the future of our healthcare. And US Senator Warnock ran his re-election campaign and the health-care runoff. Health care has won decisively.
Voters voted to expand Medicaid in South Dakota, meaning more than 40,000 low-income South Dakota residents will finally get the health care they should have had years ago. More than 17 million Americans have gained health coverage through the expansion of Medicaid, part of the Affordable Care Act that was made optional by a 2012 Supreme Court decision. Every time there is an election to expand health care through Medicaid, health care wins.
In Arizona, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 209, the Predatory Debt Collection Act, with a whopping 72% approval rating. This measure will protect Arizonans from predatory debt collection, including families suffering from medical debt.
Voters in states as diverse as Michigan, Vermont, California, Kentucky and Montana supported abortion rights. In Michigan, Vermont and California, voters approved a ballot measure that included abortion rights in their constitutions. In Kentucky and Montana, voters rejected initiatives to limit access to reproductive health care.
And in Oregon, Measure 111 was passed. Voters there made Oregon the first state in the nation to guarantee affordable health care as a constitutional right that state legislatures must now uphold.
Healthcare has been on the ballot across the country, and the results are clear: Americans want affordable, accessible healthcare.
This issue is personal to me because I have been on the front lines of fighting for my health care and for the health care of 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions like me. I was diagnosed with stage four cancer in 2017. The day after my first chemotherapy session, Republicans in the US House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the insurance that pays for the treatments I needed to survive. But healthcare voters struggled to defend the Affordable Care Act before a Congress and a President determined to repeal it. We won.
And in recent years, voters in healthcare have finally seen progress from Congress: with the American Rescue Plan making health insurance more affordable than ever, and the Inflation Reduction Act cutting the cost of prescription drugs for seniors and finally making Medicare possible to negotiate drug prices. But these achievements are already under attack.
Whether they vote to expand Medicaid health coverage, protect families from medical debt, uphold the right to reproductive freedom, or guarantee health care as a human right, Americans showed up and made their priorities known. Health care is a winning issue regardless of the voter’s state or political party.
Voters in South Dakota and elsewhere also showed that state legislatures block an overwhelming majority of popular legislation. It’s time for representatives in the remaining 11 held-back states to do their jobs and represent their constituents’ interests by finally expanding Medicaid to allow low-income Americans access to health care.
It’s also time for Congress to step in and work to extend lower drug prices for everyone, rather than threatening to take away the gains we’ve made from the Inflation Reduction Act on affordable prescription drugs.
And once again we are reminded that the majority of Americans support affordable, legal and accessible access to abortion. Abortion is health care. We must continue to stand up for reproductive freedom and show our elected officials that their restrictions on our bodies are unjustified and undesirable.
Our fight for affordable, accessible healthcare continues. There’s so much more to do, from tackling prescription drug costs for the rest of us who aren’t on Medicare, to ensuring lower health insurance costs to ensure everyone has access to healthcare.
Voters want health care. Listen, elected officials.
This comment was first published on Common Dreams.