5 Healthcare-Related Ballot Measures From the 2018 Midterm Elections

Laura Joszt

Leading up to the midterm elections, healthcare had become a crucial issue for voters with 71% of voters saying they viewed healthcare as a “very important” part of their voting decision, according to a poll from Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition to voting for representatives whom people thought would align with their healthcare views, voters in multiple states were faced with ballot measures related to healthcare.

Here are 5 healthcare ballot measures and how they fared in the 2018 midterm elections.

1. Medicaid expansion approved in multiple states
Multiple states had Medicaid expansion on the ballot on November 6. Nebraska passed it with 53% of the vote, Utah passed it with 54% of the vote, and Idaho passed it with 62% of the vote. Expansion will extend the program to 150,000 residents in Utah, 62,000 Idahoans, and 87,000 people in Nebraska.

Separately, Maine elected a new governor, which means that its Medicaid expansion, which was approved by voters last year, will finally be put into action after it was stonewalled by outgoing Republican Governor Paul LePage.

2. Abortion initiatives
Abortion was on the ballot in 3 states. In Oregon, voters defeated a measure that would curb public funding of abortion. In addition to preventing state funding from paying for abortions of low-income women, the measure would have also prevented public employees from receiving an abortion under their health insurance. Oregonians voted 64% to 36% against the measure.

However, in Alabama and West Virginia, voters passed abortion measures. In Alabama, 59% of voters approved a measure that would make it a state policy to recognize the rights of an unborn child and cease to recognize and protect a woman’s right to an abortion. In West Virginia, a measure that stated there is no right to abortion or abortion funding in the state’s constitution passed with a very narrow margin (52% to 48%).

3. Maine rejected a universal home care referendum
This initiative would have charged an income tax to help fund home care for the elderly and disabled, but Maine voters rejected the proposal 63% to 37%. Maine has one of the oldest population in the country and the initiative would have created a free program that provided care to seniors and people with disabilities. The 3.8% tax would have only been levied on adjusted gross incomes above $128,400.

4. Limits on nurse–patient ratios rejected
An initiative to limit the number of patients assigned to a nurse failed at the ballot box. According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, nurses in the state are caring for too many patients, which puts those patients in harm’s way. In mid-September, it looked like the initiative might pass, but by late October the numbers shifted in the opposite direction, according to WBUR. The final count was 70.4% against the measure and only 29.6% in favor.

Currently, California is the only state with mandatory nurse staffing limits.

5. Taxes on feminine hygiene products
Nevada has voted to exempt sanitary pads and tampons from the state’s 6.85% sales tax. Nevada already exempts medical devices like bandages and prosthetics from the state sales tax, and the FDA regulates tampons as medical devices, explained Vox.

Nevada joins 9 other states—Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania—that have already removed the sales tax on feminine hygiene products. In addition, 5 other states—Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon—have no sales tax at all.
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