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On Anniversary of Affordable Care Act, State Republicans Are Still Denying 2.2 Million Americans Access to Health Care

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On the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic governors have continued to make strides in expanding and improving the American health care system, all while Republican governors remain hell-bent on denying vulnerable Americans access to health care.

The American Rescue Plan, which zero Republicans in Congress voted for and all Republican governors refused to support, will reduce health care premiums for millions of American families and covers 100% of COBRA premiums for workers who have been laid off.

The ARP also offers the remaining states where Republicans have blocked expansion billions of dollars to expand Medicaid. Under the ARP, the federal government has increased the federal funding match – the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the federal government would cover anywhere from 150% to 400% of the costs to expand Medicaid. A policy adviser from the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said: “It’s the literal offer you can’t refuse, but let’s see if anyone refuses it, anyway.”

Right now, an estimated 2.2 million Americans still do not have access to affordable health care because 12 states have refused to expand Medicaid. In three of these states, Kansas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, Republican-controlled legislatures have blocked Democratic governors’ efforts. In the remaining nine states, Republican governors are to blame and they’re not looking to change course any time soon.

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly introduced a proposal to expand Medicaid while also legalizing medical marijuana. In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers included Medicaid expansion in his 2021 budget proposal, alongside $150 million in other health initiatives. And in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper renewed his push to expand Medicaid, citing the enticing offer under the ARP: “These problems need to be tackled and we have an extraordinary opportunity right now to do those things.”

Medicaid expansion is overwhelmingly popular, even among Americans in red states. Ten Republican governors have expanded the program, including former Vice President Mike Pence as governor of Indiana. Voters in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah, Idaho, and Missouri voted in favor of Medicaid expansion via ballot initiative as recently as last year.

While Republicans keep on railing against this popular part of both the Affordable Care Act and American Rescue Plan, Democratic governors are still fighting to improve access to affordable health care.

Since the ACA’s inception, fifteen Democratic governors have successfully enshrined at least one key ACA protection into law. And in eight states thanks to Democratic governors, individuals with preexisting conditions cannot be denied health care coverage even if the ACA has been repealed. Democratic governors have also expanded access to critical care during the pandemic, including expanding access to telehealth and opening special enrollment periods to purchase insurance.

“In the midst of the worst public health crisis in history, the Affordable Care Act and access to affordable health care is more important than ever,” said DGA Deputy Executive Director Wendi Wallace. “Thanks to Democrats, led by President Joe Biden, the American Rescue Plan expands on the ACA, lowers health care costs, and offers holdout states even greater incentives to expand Medicaid. Republicans have run out of good reasons to oppose Medicaid expansion and deny 2.2 million people access to affordable health care.”