Three red states vote to expand Medicaid during an election where health care was the top issue

Key Points
  • Three red states were projected to approve measures to expand Medicaid on Tuesday, according to NBC News. 
  • Utah, Nebraska and Idaho were set to pass propositions to broaden the federal and state health insurance program. 
  • Health insurance was top of mind for many voters across the country as Democrats took control of the House in Tuesday's midterms. 
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Three red states approved Medicaid expansion in Tuesday's midterm elections, changes that will potentially cover hundreds of thousands more low-income Americans, NBC News projected.

Voters in Utah, Nebraska and Idaho were all expected to pass ballot measures to broaden the federal and state health insurance program, according to NBC. The support for Medicaid expansion, an Affordable Care Act provision, came over the objections of many officials who had so far declined to adopt it, citing budgetary constraints.

In Utah, the change could extend coverage to 150,000 low-income people, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Another 90,000 people could get insurance in Nebraska, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. About 62,000 could receive coverage in Idaho, according to the Associated Press.

The results in the red-leaning states underscore the warming attitudes toward Obamacare and its Medicaid expansion provision that most states have adopted. The ballot measures also passed during a midterm election in which health care jumped to the top of voters' minds and emerged as the messaging priority for the Democratic Party as it took control of the House.

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The passage of the Medicaid propositions in red-leaning states Tuesday came even as other pro-GOP states propelled Republicans — who have repeatedly tried to repeal Obamacare — to gains in the Senate.

A plurality of voters, 41 percent, said health care was the most important issue for their vote, according to preliminary exit polling. It came in well ahead of both the economy and immigration. Democratic candidates across the country hammered Republicans not only over what they called threats to the coverage guarantees for people with pre-existing conditions enshrined in Obamacare, but also over potential efforts to cut into funding for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Before Tuesday's votes, 33 states and Washington, D.C., had expanded Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The program is a driver behind the lower uninsured rates seen under Obamacare, but some lawmakers have raised concerns about the funds needed for the combined federal-state program.

In Utah, the ballot measure overrules a partial expansion of Medicaid that state lawmakers passed earlier this year, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Some officials have suggested they could try to repeal the proposition, according to the newspaper. The Medicaid provision would raise about $90 million through a slight state sales tax increase to pair with federal funding.

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