At the root, healthcare is a pocketbook issue. An increasing share of insured Americans report difficulty affording healthcare. Deductibles are rising – growing more than four times faster than wages – and causing worry, especially over unexpected medical bills that ripple families and their budgets.
Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, provides an analysis of the public’s priorities and opinions in healthcare as the new congress takes shape and the 2020 presidential campaign begins.
Using polling data, he shows that in the midterms, healthcare was a top issue for Democrats and Independents but not for Republicans. The Democrats perceived that the ACA was under threat and rallied behind that issue. That helped propel them to large gains in the House.
Altman predicts that with that new Democratic-majority some of the big moves proposed in the last two years will not happen. These include repeal and replace of the ACA, changing Medicaid to include caps or block grants, and changing Medicare to a voucher system. He further predicts that no major health legislation will be passed at all except perhaps some bipartisan legislation on drugs.
With the huge partisan divide on the ACA – 81% of Democrats approve versus only 17% of Republicans – there are obvious limits to passing any national health care reform, even though generally the public highly values many of the key benefits of the ACA. Simultaneously, public knowledge about what the ACA does is actually spotty. For example, Altman cites polls that show that 41% wrongly believe that the ACA established “death panels.”
As the 2020 presidential election heats up, Altman shows that healthcare will continue to be a big issue with Medicare-for-all perhaps out in front of the others. There are many misconceptions about this kind of plan including the costs and benefits of a single-payer system.
When it comes to Medicaid, sweeping change proposed by the Republicans is unlikely. Polls show that it is generally more well-liked than some people acknowledge, almost as popular as other big programs like Medicare and Social Security, in part because it covers almost 75 million people. There are lurking issues such as work requirements but most Americas want to keep it as it is, affordable insurance for low income people.