Yesterday’s election results in Kentucky and Virginia sent a clear message to policymakers across the country: health care continues to be a decisive issue – and voters reject efforts to undermine health care access and, more specifically, barriers to Medicaid coverage. We witnessed this in the 2018 midterm elections, and we saw it again last night in the state elections in Kentucky and Virginia. It is undeniable that protecting and defending Medicaid will be on the top of voters’ minds heading into the ballot box in 2020.

Here’s what happened in Kentucky and Virginia’s 2019 Elections

Last night, Medicaid won big and work requirements in Kentucky and Virginia are now on the chopping block.

In Kentucky, voters elected Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear, who ran on a platform of defending health care access and Medicaid coverage. Beshear defeated Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who, during his tenure, filed a waiver to impose work requirements on Medicaid enrollees, which only make it harder for qualified people to keep their health insurance. In Virginia, voters flipped both the Virginia House and Senate to a Democratic-majority, electing leaders dedicated to protecting health care access and the Medicaid program. This is great news, particularly for the over 300,000 Virginians who are currently enrolled thanks to the incredible efforts of advocates in 2018 to close the Medicaid coverage gap.

Here’s what could happen next

State actions to protect Medicaid coverage by newly elected officials will advance in both states.

  • In Governor-elect Beshear’s victory speech, he reaffirmed his commitment to “rescind this governor’s Medicaid waiver” on work requirements, and has noted this will be his first action as governor. 

  • When Virginia expanded Medicaid coverage in 2018, Republican state lawmakers pushed for a Medicaid work reporting requirement. But now, with a Democratic majority in the Virginia House and Senate, we expect state policymakers and health care consumer advocates to look for policy options that would withdraw Virginia’s work reporting requirement waiver. 

Once again, health care voters saw through political efforts to undermine the Medicaid program and recognized the impact Medicaid restrictions could have on hundreds of thousands of low-income people, including children and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. With ongoing litigation against Medicaid work requirements, a new GAO report confirming the costly price of work reporting requirements, and these 2019 election results, state policymakers should think twice before pursuing new changes to the Medicaid program that create complicated rules and red tape for Medicaid enrollees. 

The bottom line? When you undermine your constituents’ health coverage through burdensome work reporting requirements, you might just lose your own job in the process.