If it is done right, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) may well promise uninsured Americans a lot more than cheap, reliable medical care. It can also open the door to the democratic empowerment of millions of poor people, who are often alienated from much of the nation’s civic life, by strengthening the organizations that give them a voice.
This year more than 30 million uninsured Americans are to begin signing up for Obamacare, but the vast majority of those eligible for either the expanded Medicaid program, or for subsidized private health insurance through state health exchanges, have no idea how to enroll. Surveys and focus groups have found that up to three-quarters of Americans who might directly benefit from the program are skeptical that the law can provide high-quality insurance coverage at a price they can afford.
This November, voters weighed in on an array of state ballot initiatives on health issues from medical marijuana to health care reform. Ballot outcomes by state are listed below (more after the jump).
Voters in Alabama, Montana, and Wyoming passed initiatives expressing disapproval of the Affordable Care Act, while a similar initiative in Florida garnered a majority of the vote but failed to pass under the state’s supermajority voting requirement. Missouri voters passed a ballot initiative prohibiting the state executive branch from establishing a health insurance exchange, leaving this task to the federal government or state legislature.
Florida voters defeated a measure that would have prohibited the use of state funds for abortions, while Montana voters passed a parental notification requirement for minors seeking abortions (with a judicial waiver provision).
Perhaps surprisingly, California voters failed to pass a law requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food. Several states legalized medical marijuana, while Arkansas voters struck down a medical marijuana initiative and Montana voters made existing medical marijuana laws more restrictive.
Physician-assisted suicide was barely defeated in Massachusetts (51% to 49%), while North Dakotans banned smoking in indoor workplaces. Michigan voters failed to pass an initiative increasing the regulation of home health workers, while Louisiana voters prohibited the appropriation of state Medicaid trust funds for other purposes.
When you hear of ‘health tech’ or ‘health innovation,’ the first places that come to mind are usually Silicon Valley, Boston or New York City. Yet, this past weekend’s event shook that notion for everyone that attended. It is not just big cities like SF, Boston or NYC that are experiencing a surge of innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, even the smallest towns across the nation are taking technology and the power of internet to confront our nation’s growing health problems. CajunCodeFest, in Lafayette, Louisiana, is no exception.
An incredible crew of nearly 300 entrepreneurs, health experts, students, coders, and professionals gathered in Lafayette this weekend, representing 3 countries, 15 states, and 40 cities. With Louisiana having the second highest obesity rates (after Mississippi), the code-a-thon marked an important stepping stone for the state in its battle against obesity. As obesity rates continue to rise, the epidemic is now considered one of the nation’s biggest public health problems. The Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals, Bruce Greenstein, put it loud and clear during his opening remarks, stating how “we have failed to take personal responsibility” for our obesity problems and we continue to blame others for this growing issue. That’s why the CajunCodeFest taking place in Lafayette was more important than ever.