The news today that, through December 12, there have been 2.5 million signups in the second year of open enrollment is another indication of the success the Affordable Care Act is having in bringing health care to millions of Americans. The website has been withstanding surges in traffic, too.
But there is more evidence that the law is working. As the holiday season approaches, conservative-led states previously committed to resisting the Affordable Care Act at all costs are doing a funny thing. With the 2014 elections behind them, more and more red state governors are announcing that they support accepting federal funding to close the coverage gap and provide affordable healthcare to families. While we hope that state legislatures will come on board with these state executives and approve plans quickly, in some cases it could be a long slog from governors announcing a deal to these same governors signing legislation. Despite that, this news is incredibly encouraging:
- Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced Insure Tennessee, a federal-state hybrid program that could bring coverage to more than 160,000 Tennesseans. A recent poll found that 58 percent of registered Tennessee voters supported taking federal funding to expand coverage for low-income Tennesseans.
- Earlier this month, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead announced his support for his state’s version of Medicaid expansion, which could cover up to 17,600 Wyomingites.
- Also earlier this month, Utah Governor Gary Herbert released his plan to expand coverage in his state, which would go beyond closing Utah’s coverage gap and could provide insurance for 77,000 Utahns.
- Newly-elected Alaska Governor Bill Walker, an independent, continued his campaign to expand Medicaid from the campaign trail into his administration, though he will face stiff resistance from the Republican statehouse to bring affordable health care to 40,000 Alaskans.
- According to reports, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), undeterred after Republicans blocked him from expanding Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians, will continue to push for Medicaid expansion in 2015, despite facing long odds.
Since it is the holiday season, it would not be complete without a Grinch. That would be Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. Fresh off a tough re-election fight where he had to defend his tax cuts that blew a huge whole in the budget and deepened the recession’s damage to state services, Brownback has to continue to try and stitch together a balanced budget. His new idea to fill that pothole, however, is to use funds available to Kansas in part due to savings through the Affordable Care Act. Kansas received about $30 million thanks to the ACA through Medicaid, but instead of using that money to pay for Medicaid, Brownback wants to use it to replace the money given out in tax cuts disproportionately to the wealthy.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite setbacks by obstructionist Republicans, the Affordable Care Act’s fight to expand coverage to millions more Americans is not over. Expanding health coverage and closing the coverage gap is good for state budgets, for state economies, and of course for the uninsured. More red states are realizing this now, and we’ll bet even more will in the year to come.