How Medical Measures Fared On The Ballot In These Midterms

The 2022 U.S. midterm election cycle has largely come to an end, with the Democratic Party maintaining its Senate majority, and the Republican Party ekeing out a very narrow House majority. Beyond determining the control of both chambers of Congress, a number of important healthcare measures were on the ballot.

Believe it or not, there is a wide bipartisan consensus among the American electorate that our healthcare system should be more affordable, accessible, and equitable than it is right now. A surprising number of U.S. voters across the political spectrum agree that our medical system needs serious reforms, and the actual numbers themselves over the past few years appear to support this:

  • In a late 2020 Pew Research poll of Democratic and Republican voters, taken in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, around 63% of respondents favored the idea of the government starting a nationalized, universal healthcare coverage program.
  • A 2021 bipartisan Morning Consult poll found that 55% of respondents supported a single-payer “Medicare For All” Policy, and even more of them (68%) were in support of a public health insurance option to expand the affordability and accessibility of healthcare in the United States.
  • Arguing on the floor to President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders highlighted a myriad of important 2022 statistics supporting an M4A proposal. He drew attention to the fact that only 6% of the American people believe pharmaceutical drug costs are handled fairly, only 12% believe that healthcare is handled fairly overall, and over 86% of Americans are in favor of expanded Medicare coverage. 

But beyond the numbers in polls and surveys, the most important numbers to follow to glean where the American electorate stands on healthcare access will be found in the actual electoral numbers. In areas where increasing or limiting access to healthcare was on the ballot, a large majority of Americans voted overwhelmingly in favor of increasing access.

Let’s cover three key healthcare issues that shaped key state ballot measures through this election cycle, and how most Americans voted on those key healthcare issues.

1. Abortion Access and Reproductive Rights

Abortion access, as well as reproductive health issues overall, became a crucial matter of concern this election cycle following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs V. Jackson. The court overturned the 50-year precedent established by Roe V. Wade which all but guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion

Approximately 45% of voters were influenced by this decision, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Fund, and the decision influenced a multitude of state ballot initiatives that would either protect or ban access to legal abortion care. In areas where the issue was on the ballot, voters swung overwhelmingly in favor of protecting and enshrining abortion access into their state constitutions.

As Forbes reported, states like Michigan, Vermont, and California all voted to approve ballot measures that would protect local abortion rights, and Kentucky, a traditionally red state, voted against a state constitutional amendment that would explicitly deny the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution. 

Likewise, although the state still has local laws regulating later-term cases of abortion procedures, Michigan passed a more comprehensive state amendment protecting the rights of women to make decisions regarding pregnancy care, birth control, and earlier-term abortion care.

2. Cannabis and Psychedelic Drug Decriminalization

The 2022 midterm election saw a continuation of emergent trends through the past few election cycles - namely, voters largely coming out in favor of state-level reforms toward ineffective, retrograde, Drug War-era policies. Nearly half the country (21 states) has now either decriminalized or fully legalized the use of marijuana, and now psychedelic therapy has started to be subject to state-level decriminalization in some areas.

Both Missouri and Maryland approved ballot measures to legalize the use of medical and recreational cannabis products in the state, for residents aged 21 and older. States like Ohio and Oklahoma are likely to vote on decriminalizing the drug in elections next year, and Minnesota might be able to move toward legalizing marijuana without an election or ballot provision. (ACLU)

Smaller, though still noteworthy, strides were made in the fight to expand legal access to psychedelic therapies. Colorado voters made the state the second (after Oregon) to legalize the personal use of psilocybin mushrooms for residents aged 21 and older (PBS). All across the country, ketamine is currently approved for regulated therapeutic use, but other psychedelics still have yet to be legalized in most states, for medical use or otherwise.

Still, Colorado’s ballot measure marks a small, but significant step toward broader legalization of psychedelic therapy in the country. New Jersey and California will potentially be moving toward psychedelic drug measures in their 2023 election cycles, and even more states will potentially be slated to have cannabis provisions in the 2024 election cycle. 

3. Healthcare Access and Affordability

Over the course of the midterms, several states passed legislation to improve the accessibility and affordability of healthcare in general. Here are a few areas where key provisions and flipped governorships could improve healthcare policies:

  • Arizona: Voters approved a state ballot initiative that would cap interest rates for medical care at three percent - much lower than the previous average cap of 10 percent. This marks a small, but important step toward reducing the crushing burden of medical debt.
  • Massachusetts: The state’s governorship flipped blue with the election of Maura Healey, ousting Republican Governor Charlie Baker. While legislation to establish a public-option and single-payer health program in the state stalled under the previous administration, it’s possible that Healey could be more willing to move forward with the policy.
  • Oregon: Ballot Measure 111, a state constitutional amendment that passed in the midterms, explicitly ensures that every state resident can access “cost-effective, clinically appropriate, and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” The state legislature previously established a task force on universal health care, but this measure is likely to support more decisive action.
  • Maryland: Like Massachusetts, Maryland lawmakers have previously expressed in pushing forward legislation that would improve accessibility to state-level single-payer health coverage. Governor-Elect Wes Moore was able to flip his state’s gubernatorial seat blue, and he’s previously expressed interest in supporting such legislation.

All in all, our national healthcare is still long overdue for reform, but we can only hope that these local reforms are a bellwether for broader, positive changes to come. If you are presently struggling to find affordable, accessible healthcare, online providers might be able to offset some of the costs and coverage gaps, regardless of insurance.

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