By Ishan Khurana
Edited by Kaitlin Lemke
Edited by Kaitlin Lemke
Healthcare – and access to it – has become an important campaign issue within American politics since the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which ruled that states cannot regulate abortions in the first trimester of a pregnancy. For instance, abortion and general healthcare service prices are currently highly controversial issues within the political sphere; as a result, they are at risk of being reworked, overcomplicated, and twisted for the sake of political gain. Thus, it is now more important than ever to be aware of healthcare availability and how it may change with political updates. The 2022 midterm elections, full of drastic congressional and governmental power redistribution, have the potential to greatly reshape this access and redefine healthcare rights from the ground up.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark case Roe v. Wade, which protected first trimester abortion rights (citing the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment), caused a massive increase in voter turnout and participation in the 2022 midterm elections. Reproductive rights and healthcare access changes appeared in the midterm elections in two forms: directly (via propositions on the ballot) and indirectly (via the election of congressional officials who will likely vote on healthcare-related issues).
The most visible impact on American abortion rights appears in the form of laws and propositions voted on directly by voters on the ballot. Five states – Kentucky, Vermont, Michigan, Montana, and California – allowed voters to impact various forms of abortion legislation (Stracqualursi et al. 2022). Voters in Montana and Kentucky rejected measures which would have restricted abortion rights (by allowing abortion healthcare providers to be punished by law and by adding a clause to the state constitution solidifying legal indifference towards the protection of abortion rights, respectively). Meanwhile, voters solidified amendments into law in Michigan, California, and Vermont which defend and protect abortion rights by writing them into the states’ constitutions, cementing them into state legislation for years to come.
Additionally, newly elected officials in the House of Representatives and the Senate present new opportunities and obstacles for abortion access and reproductive rights. The establishment of a Republican majority in the House presents a large obstacle for the passage of legislation protecting reproductive rights and access to reproductive healthcare, likely preventing the codifying of abortion; in this situation, abortion access would likely continue to be decided at a state level. However, the cementing of a Democratic majority in the Senate will lead to the confirmation of Biden-appointed and likely liberal judges, allowing for the protection of abortion rights throughout the judicial branch and therefore throughout America.
Abortion rights and access remain different in each state. The resource ReproductiveRights.org describes the status of abortion access in each state. Regarding reproductive care, AbortionFinder.org is a free resource to find nearby services such as abortions and access to free contraceptives and other forms of birth control.
Healthcare Prices and Policies
The most influential healthcare programs which are at major risk after the 2022 midterm elections are the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which lowers the cost of health insurance, and Medicare, a form of federal health insurance for Americans above the age of 65. Over the past two years, with a Democratic majority in the House and the Senate, both programs were revised and expanded via the passing and updating of the ACA and Medicare programs. Republicans, however, have actively worked to repeal the ACA in the past, so the potential for damaging or reworking the program still exists.
For instance, House Speaker Republican Kevin McCarthy founded the Healthy Future Task Force; Republican policymakers have recently shifted the focus of their offensive onto preventative service protections (i.e. vaccines, testing and screenings, etc.) of the ACA. For example, a Texas judge’s ruling that the ACA’s preventative care coverage process is unconstitutional may limit the program’s providing of discounted insurance entirely by unraveling its protected services piece-by-piece, starting with HIV screenings, which detect HIV quickly and allow patients to seek treatment more efficiently and effectively. Congressional conservatives will likely also attempt to attack affordable healthcare and the ACA with similar approaches. House Republicans cannot guarantee the passage of their legislation through the Senate, but they can run investigations on government committees that are important for healthcare access.
Prescription Drug Prices
The passing of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will likely lower the cost of various healthcare services, including the prices of prescription drugs through the ACA and Medicare.
Though a Republican majority in the House means the majority of congressional representatives will disagree with Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, it remains safe due to Democrats maintaining control of both the Senate and the executive branch of government. Consequently, drug prices may drop briefly, but then be forced to a standstill because of the newly split Congress; the Republican-run House and Democrat-run Senate likely means that other acts intended to lower drug costs will not pass through Congress without intense, drawn-out collaboration.
The split in congressional power resulting from the 2022 midterm elections will likely lead to a tug-of-war-style Congress for the next two years regarding healthcare access and affordability laws. Access to abortions and other forms of reproductive care will not be codified — thus, the fate of these subjects lies mostly in the hands of the judicial department. Lifetime judicial appointments by the Biden administration have the potential to shift the fight for reproductive healthcare rights in a positive direction in the long run.
Additionally, the stability of healthcare prices is at risk due to continued Republican attacks on the ACA and Medicare, but these attacks will appear mostly through the judicial rather than legislative branch of the government. For this reason, it remains extremely important for all voters to participate in elections at every level – local, state, and federal – as elected officials have control over the appointment of judges and ultimately the future of America. The 2022 midterm elections are imperative to the future of healthcare accessibility — not through the path of legislative action, but through propositions and judicial appointments.
Levins H. 2022. What the Surprising Midterm Results Mean for Healthcare Policy. University of Pennsylvania [Internet]. Available from: https://ldi.upenn.edu/our-work/research-updates/what-the-surprising-midterm-results-mean-for-health-care-policy/
Seervai S. 2022. Why the Midterm Elections Matter for Health Care. The Commonwealth Fund [Internet]. Available from: https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/podcast/2022/oct/why-midterm-elections-matter-health-care
Stracqualursi V, Cole D, LeBlanc P. 2022. Voters deliver ringing endorsement of abortion rights on midterm ballot initiatives across the US. CNN [Internet]. Available from: https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/09/politics/abortion-rights-2022-midterms/index.html