Updated Jan. 3, 2019: Three states — Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — voted to expand Medicaid to all residents making less than 133% of the poverty line during the mid-term elections. Maine governor Janet Mills has signed an executive order to implement expansion as well. We'll update those state requirements as more details regarding implementaton of the ballot initiatives emerge.
A recent lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other states ruled on Dec. 17 against the ACA's protections for people with pre-existing conditions and struck down the guarantee of coverage for "essential health benefits" such as emergency services, maternity and newborn care and mental health treatment, among others.
The ruling is so vast many believe it will eventually be overturned — the Supreme Court has previously upheld the ACA's legality. Though the ruling will not currently have an effect on the health care system, it has further ignited the debate over health care.
In case you missed it, the midterm elections happened in November, and the results could impact your health. Three states voted to expand Medicaid to cover more people and a change in the leadership of the House of Representatives may stifle attempts to repeal Obamacare. Here’s what you need to know.
Medicaid will expand in at least four states
Idaho, Nebraska and Utah voted by ballot to expand Medicaid — the federal- and state-funded health insurance program for low-income Americans and their families — to cover everyone earning less than 133% of the poverty level. 340,000 Americans in these states can enroll in the program next spring. Virginia passed Medicaid expansion earlier this year, widening coverage to 400,000 people.
These four states would join 32 others, and the District of Columbia, that have already expanded Medicaid under former President Barack Obama's health law.
Maine has all but expanded Medicaid. Last year voters approved expansion by referendum, but former Gov. Paul LePage blocked its passage. He was replaced in the election by Janet Mills, a Democrat, who will likely sign off on the expansion. This will provide coverage to more than 70,000 adults.
Montana voted to stop Medicaid expansion, which was slated for renewal this year. Funding will end in summer 2019 unless the state acts. The outcome of governor's races may lead to Medicaid expanding in other states in coming months.
A repeal of Obamacare is unlikely
If you have a pre-existing condition and are worried about losing your health insurance, you can rest easy for a bit. Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and are unlikely to allow a repeal of Obamacare. The law bars insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.
Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 27% of Americans, or 52 million, have a pre-existing condition that might make them difficult to insure on the individual market.
Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, tweeted that for now, repealing Obamacare, is currently “dead in its tracks.”
How to get health care
If you qualify for Medicaid, you can enroll year-round. Here’s a state-by-state guide to help you find out if you’re eligible and how to apply.
Federal open enrollment for Americans in need of a 2019 individual health care plan is running through Dec. 15. Many state-run marketplaces are open longer. If you need health insurance for next year and won’t qualify for a special enrollment period, you must purchase a plan by your state’s deadline or risk going without coverage. If you aren’t sure what your options are, check out our guide on how to sign up for a health care plan.