The midterm elections are over – but much remains to be seen. Now it’s time to figure out what the election results might mean for the future of Medicare.
Bipartisan Support Will Be Needed
While Republicans kept a majority in the Senate, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. As a result, Republicans will not be able to push legislature through without some support from the Democrats. For bills to get passed, bipartisan support will be needed.
As the Medicare Rights Center points out, this means that more extreme legislature is unlikely to succeed in the near future. Instead of seeing a complete overhaul of Medicare and other health care programs, such as Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, we may see smaller tweaks and stabilization. The Democrats may still seek to expand Medicare, but Medicare for All may not be on the table in the near future. Both parties will likely want to control prescription prices, but they’ll need to reach a compromise on how to do so.
Major Cuts May Be Less Likely
There has been speculation that Republicans would seek significant cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed to out-of-control Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending as the cause of rising federal deficits. This interview took place in October, shortly before the midterm elections, and right after the Treasury Department announced that the deficit had grown to $779 billion, compared to $439 billion in 2015.
However, in an analysis of the midterm elections featured in Next Avenue, entitlement reforms are deemed less likely now that control of Congress is divided.
Expansion May Remain in the Spotlight
The Next Avenue analysis also predicts that any efforts to address Social Security solvency will be postponed for the time being, while House Democrats may try to gather support for Medicare for All.
According to The Week, Democrats who support health care reform to increase access – including Medicaid expansion and Medicare for All – fared well in the midterm elections. This suggests that these ideas will remain in the spotlight in the coming years.
Medicaid expansion seems especially popular right now. Business Insider reports that three traditionally Republican states voted in favor of expanding Medicaid, and that the results of the midterm elections make a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and major cuts to programs unlikely until at least 2020.
In the end, it seems likely that health care will remain a hot topic, but that the Democratic win in the House means that a bipartisan approach will be necessary.