Maine embraces Obamacare, votes to expand Medicaid to 70,000 low-income people

Addy Baird

Addy Baird Reporter, Think Progress

Tens of thousands of low-income people previously locked out of affordable coverage got good news last Tuesday.

Voters in Maine elected to expand the Medicaid program, which offers health insurance to low-income people. Before this ballot measure’s success, the state’s legislature repeatedly tried to expand Medicaid, but Gov. Paul LePage (R) issued five different vetoes blocking the legislation.

The Medicaid expansion is a major provision of the Affordable Care Act, but after it was ruled optional by the Supreme Court, many GOP-controlled states have refused to expand the program. Maine, one of 19 states that has resisted expansion, is the first to turn the question over to voters with a ballot measure.

The New York Times reports that other states that held out are closely watching the initiative. In Utah and Idaho, newly formed committees are working to get the question of Medicaid expansion on the ballot next year.

Currently, 268,000 people in Maine are covered by Medicaid, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, while 70,000 people fall into a coverage gap between Medicaid and the ACA. Most of them are now eligible for coverage following the winning yes vote for expansion.

The good news for health care access doesn’t stop in Maine. In Virginia, where the GOP-controlled House has thwarted Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s efforts to expand the program, Republicans are bracing to lose more than 10 seats, a Virginia GOP delegate told The New York Times.

Democrat Ralph Northam won the election to replace McAuliffe Tuesday. If Democrats take control of the House of Delegates, the governor could expand the program with the support of the legislature in Virginia as well. The state senate elections aren’t until 2019, but the path to victory for Democrats in that chamber is considered much easier, as Republicans have just a two-seat majority there. 

About 400,000 people would receive access to health insurance if Virginia expanded Medicaid.

***

Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Home Health Care Workers Under Attack

By Bethany Swanson
USW Intern

Home health care workers have important but difficult jobs that require them to work long hours and chaotic schedules to care for the country’s rapidly growing elder population.

Instead of protecting these workers, the vast majority of whom are women and people of color, the current administration plans to make it harder for them to belong to unions, stifling their best chance for improving working conditions and wages.

The anti-union measure would roll back an Obama-era rule that allows home care workers, whose services are paid for through Medicaid, to choose to have their union dues deducted directly from their paychecks.

The goal of the rule, like the recent Janus decision and other anti-union campaigns, is to starve unions out of existence, so they can no longer protect their members.

Home health care workers bathe, dress, feed and monitor the health of the sick and elderly, but they often cannot afford to provide for their own families.

On average, they make little more than $10 an hour and more than half rely on some sort of public assistance. Most receive few or no benefits, even though home care workers and other direct care workers have some of the highest injury rates of any occupation.

That’s why many home care workers have turned to labor unions.

More ...

The Dirty Truth about Janus

The Dirty Truth about Janus