ICYMI: Roll Call: Health Care On The Ballot in Kentucky, Louisiana, And Mississippi
In case you missed it, Democratic candidates for governor are running to expand and protect access to health care in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
In Kentucky, Democrat Attorney General Andy Beshear would scrap a rule implemented by GOP Gov. Matt Bevin that could take health care away from 400,000 Kentuckians if enacted. In Louisiana, if Republican Eddie Rispone wins his Medicaid plan could take away health care from 300,000 Louisianans after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards successfully expanded Medicaid after taking office. And in Mississippi, Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood would support a bipartisan plan to expand Medicaid to provide health care to 300,000 Mississippians and stop the closure of many of the state’s rural hospitals.
Read more about how Democratic gubernatorial candidates are on offense discussing health care in their campaigns:
Roll Call: Medicaid at issue in 2019 races for governor
Races next month for governor in three states could affect the medical coverage of hundreds of thousands of people and offer test cases of how voters might view health care issues — particularly Medicaid for lower-income people.
In Mississippi, the Democratic candidate vows to expand Medicaid under the national health care law, while the Republican opposes that. Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin wants to scale back coverage that his Democratic opponent’s father, a former governor, expanded. And in Louisiana, incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards touts his expansion of Medicaid while his GOP rival would freeze enrollment.
All three races are competitive. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates those in Kentucky and Louisiana as Toss-ups. The Mississippi race is rated Leans Republican.
Medicaid reached new popularity after Republicans in Washington unsuccessfully sought to cap funding. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in March 2018 found 74 percent of respondents approving of the program jointly funded by the federal and state governments and run on the state level.
In Mississippi, which did not expand eligibility, the debate mirrors similar scenarios in conservative-leaning states since the 2010 law’s implementation. Democrat Jim Hood, the state attorney general running for governor, supports expanding the program. His Republican opponent, state Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, is fighting expansion.
The Louisiana and Kentucky races show how Medicaid remains a political flashpoint even after state expansions. Republicans in both states propose scaling back the program in different ways.
“It’s not on the issue of expanding Medicaid but how to expand Medicaid,” said Capri Cafaro, an adjunct professorial lecturer at the American University School of Public Affairs and former Ohio Democratic state senator. “That’s where we’re seeing the differentiation.”
Bevin’s work requirement policy is opposed by his Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Andy Beshear, who said he would eliminate them on his first day in office. Beshear’s father, Steve Beshear, expanded Medicaid by executive order as governor in 2014.
Beshear’s ads attack Bevin on health care issues, including one spot saying the incumbent wants to take away health care coverage.
Frederick Isasi, executive director of the consumer group Families USA, predicted that Medicaid expansion could be a deciding issue in the Nov. 5 Kentucky election. A majority of Americans tell pollsters health care is too costly and vote based on that issue, he said.
Isasi added that when governors like Bevin “actually make health care less accessible, they put more financial burden on families.”
In Louisiana, where expansion is popular, Edwards notes that expanding eligibility was his top priority when he was elected in 2015. Before the state’s jungle primary earlier this month, Republican challenger Eddie Rispone called for blocking new enrollment and checking that people enrolling in the program actually qualify for benefits.
While Rispone has not proposed overturning Medicaid expansion, his plan to freeze enrollment would reverse the growth in benefits the state’s residents have enjoyed, warns the Louisiana Budget Project, a think tank focused on low- to moderate-income families.
In Mississippi, Hood and other expansion advocates have sought to underscore that providing benefits to more people, and winning federal dollars for that, could help keep rural hospitals open.
A Navigant Consulting report released this year found the state could be one of the most affected by hospital closures.
The Medicaid fights in the three states could spill over to 2020.
“Health care is going to continue to be a leading issue amongst voters across the country, particularly independent-leaning voters,” said Cafaro, the former Ohio state senator.