News

IN A WISCONSIN TRUMP COUNTY, AND ACROSS THE U.S., PROGRESSIVE HEALTH CARE INITIATIVES COASTED THROUGH

(INTERCEPT) Ryan GrimLee Fang, January 24, 2023

Initiatives to expand health care access and reduce costs won big on election night, rattling for-profit industry lobbyists.

THE 45,000 OR so residents of Dunn County live off on the western side of Wisconsin, not far from central Minnesota, but not close to much of anything. Like other rural counties, it leans heavily Republican, going by double digits to Donald Trump in 2020. This year, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., notched a 14-point margin there, and Tim Michels beat the incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers by 9 percentage points.

But when it came to health care, Dunn County voters said they would support a national health insurance program. The overwhelmingly Republican residents of this farming community approved a ballot measure that affirms their support for a single-payer public health insurance program. The idea, which passed 51-49, ran 11 points ahead of Evers, who was reelected statewide, and 16 points ahead of Senate candidate Mandela Barnes.

The largely unnoticed rural election result affirmed support for nationalizing and expanding health insurance, a program popularly known as Medicare for All. While the national media discourse about the election largely ignored health care issues beyond abortion rights, voters across the country registered support for progressive reforms focused on improving health care access and reining in the for-profit industries that dominate the medical system.

In Arizona and South Dakota, like in Dunn County, progressive health care initiatives outpaced Democratic Party candidates by a wide margin. Arizona voters passed Proposition 209, a measure that reduces the allowable interest rate for medical debt and expands exemptions for what can be garnished by medical debt collectors, with a landslide 72 percent in favor. South Dakota became the 40th state to expand Medicaid coverage, making an additional 40,000 residents eligible.

Oregon passed Measure 111, making it the first state to enshrine a right to “cost-effective, clinically appropriate affordable health care” for every resident in the state constitution. In Massachusetts, voters enacted Question 2, which forces dental insurance companies to spend at least 83 percent of premiums on actual dental care, rather than administrative costs and profits.

Source: The Intercept