Nov 8, 2017

Medicaid's big night

This may be a small victory party, but it's a victory party nonetheless. Photo: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Last night, Maine became the first state to expand Medicaid via referendum and the 33rd state (counting D.C.) to adopt the Affordable Care Act's expansion one way or another. And in Virginia, Democrats' unexpectedly large gains in the state's House of Delegates made expansion a much more realistic prospect there, too.

The big picture: Last night was a huge night for Democrats, and health care was a huge part of it.

  • Exit polls in Virginia showed that health care was the No. 1 issue for a plurality of voters β€” and 78% of those voters broke for Democrat Ralph Northam.
  • Virginia already had a Democratic governor. The party's immense gains in the state legislature, where past efforts to expand Medicaid failed, are what move it closer to reality.
  • Maine's Medicaid expansion might be somewhat delayed. Some expansion advocates expect Gov. Paul LePage, a fierce expansion opponent, to run out the clock and leave the actual implementation for whoever takes over after he's term-limited in 2018. Even so, last night's referendum will bind his successor, too. It's happening eventually.

The emotional win might be the most important. The main takeaway for Democrats across the ideological spectrum last night: They can, in fact, win, and win big, and win on health care issues. Even, or maybe especially, when President Trump and congressional Republicans are still fixated on some form of ACA repeal.

  • The results from Maine, whenever they actually take effect, have already mobilized Democrats to try to get similar initiatives on the ballot next year in more non-expansion states.
  • Look for Idaho, Kansas and Utah to be at the forefront of those efforts.
  • And if last night does turn out to be a sign of what's to come in 2018, don't expect any more ACA repeal bills to pass the House. Whatever provisions Republicans think they can actually agree to repeal, delay or weaken, they'd better repeal, delay or weaken soon.

One last thing: Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative to cap what state-run health programs would pay for prescription drugs.

The bottom line: Governing majorities come and go, but pharma always wins.

Go deeper

Coronavirus updates: California monitors 8,400 potential cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 hours ago - Health

Syria's darkest chapter

Family room without a family, in Idlib. Photo: Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The worst humanitarian crisis of Syria’s brutal civil war is colliding today with what could be the war’s most dangerous geopolitical showdown, after at least 29 Turkish troops were killed in an airstrike.

The big picture: The fighting is taking place in Idlib in northwest Syria, where a ferocious Syrian and Russian offensive has displaced 1 million civilians and infuriated Turkey, which borders the region.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - World

Axios Dashboard

Keep up with breaking news throughout the day β€” sign up for our alerts.