Health concerns drive voters to back Medicaid, weed and trans rights

There were more than 150 statewide measures on ballots this midterm election and several involved health-related issues ranging from the taxes on feminine hygiene products to Medicaid expansion, to abortion access, and legalizing the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana.

Voters in 37 states had more than candidates to choose Tuesday. There were more than 150 statewide measures on ballots this midterm election, and several involved health-related issues such as taxes on feminine hygiene products, Medicaid expansion, abortion access and legalizing the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana. Based on the preliminary vote results, here’s what some voters went for and what they rejected.

Abortion

Alabama and West Virginia voted measures into their constitutions that restrict abortion.

Alabama’s Amendment 2 adds language to the state Constitution to give a fetus the same rights as a human who has been born.

Abortion rights supporters worry that the amendment could be used to criminalize some forms of in-vitro fertilization and contraception. There are also concerns that should the US Supreme Court end Roe v. Wade, this amendment would be a “trigger ban,” meaning abortion would be outlawed in some states.

This “personhood” ballot measure doesn’t have exemptions like in other states’ laws that carve out the right to an abortion in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.

West Virginia’s Amendment 1 narrowly passed. Also known as the No Constitutional Right to Abortion Amendment, it explicitly states that its Constitution has nothing in it that “secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” Unlike Alabama’s law, it has an exception for rape, incest, fetal anomaly or threats to the woman’s life. It also restricts Medicaid funding for abortions.

Voters rejected Oregon’s Measure 106, which would have ended state funding for abortions.

Marijuana

Adult recreational users of weed will be able to use it legally in another state.

According to preliminary results, more than 54% of voters in Michigan said yes to the initiative that imposes a 10-ounce limit for Michigan residents, creates a state licensing system, will allow for retail sales subject to a 10% tax and changes several weed-related violations to civil infractions.

That makes 10 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington — plus the District of Columbia that allow for recreational use.

In North Dakota, voters rejected an initiative that would have allowed for recreational use for adults over 21.

Other states’ weed-related initiatives focused on medical marijuana; prior to the election, 31 states and the District of Columbia had laws that legalize or decriminalize it.

Missouri had three medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot this year. Voters gave a definite yes to Amendment 2, which legalizes medical marijuana, taxes it at 4% and guarantees that the money will be spent on health care services for veterans. Amendment 3 and Proposition C, which would also have legalized medical use but would have spent the tax revenue differently, failed.

In Utah, voters seem to be saying yes to Proposition 2, which means individuals with qualifying illnesses will get access to medical marijuana.

Health care

Voters in Utah, Idaho and Nebraska, mostly Republican-dominated states, voted yes to expand Medicaid eligibility to people under 65 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level. In Utah, that expansion is going to be funded in part by a sales tax increase.

Montana voters appear to be rejecting Medicaid expansion, but they are still counting votes on this initiative. Montana’s I-185 would have also raised taxes on tobacco products to help fund the expansion and other health care programs. The tobacco industry has spent millions in the state to fight the initiative since it would have doubled the cigarette tax to pay for the state’s portion of Medicaid expansion.

Other health care initiatives were on the ballot in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada.

Voters gave a resounding yes to California’s Proposition 4, which will authorize $1.5 billion in bonds for children’s hospitals. It was a closer vote, but they also said yes to Proposition 11, which requires people who work on ambulances to stay on call during breaks and require employers to give EMTs and paramedics additional training and some paid mental health services.

California voters rejected Proposition 8, which would have required dialysis clinics to refund patients for revenue above 115% of the costs of direct patient care.

It appears that voters rejected Question 1 in Massachusetts that would have limited the number of patients assigned to registered nurses working in a hospital. The state has restrictions for intensive care units but not for any other part of the hospital.

Voters seem to have said yes to Nevada’s Question 4, which requires the state legislature to remove taxes on durable medical equipment, oxygen equipment and mobility devices that are prescribed by a licensed provider. And early results are in favor of Nevada’s Question 2 that removes sales tax from feminine hygiene products.

Other health matters

In Massachusetts, preliminary voting results with Question 3 seem to suggest voters said yes to keeping a law that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places like restaurants, stores, hotels and hospitals. There’s no federal law that provides such protections for people who identify as transgender.

Some of the other ballot initiatives involved tax collection.

Voters in Washington state said yes to an initiative that bans local governments from collecting taxes on groceries. Voters went against Oregon’s Measure 103 that would have banned taxes on groceries. The initiatives got broad support from soda companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo that see it as a way to fight the growing movement toward soda taxes.

Voters rejected South Dakota’s Initiated Measure 25 that would have increased taxes on tobacco products. Voters said yes to Virginia’s Question 2 that removes a restriction on tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran.

Maine’s Question 1 would have created a payroll tax and non-wage income tax that would fund a home health care program, but preliminary results show that it failed.

In New Mexico, voters said yes to Bond Question A that provides $10.77 million in bonds for senior citizen facilities.

Ohio voters soundly rejected Issue 1, which would have eliminated the option for a felony charge for the possession or use of drugs, would require the state to spend on programs that would include helping people get into drug treatment and rehabilitation programs, would create sentencing programs that involve drug rehab, and would prohibit courts from sending a person to prison for non-criminal probation violations.

Oklahoma voters said no to State Question 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to practice in retail establishments. It was narrowly defeated.