ACA benefits, healthcare costs huge issues for voters

Voters are thinking about healthcare when it comes to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, with pre-existing conditions becoming a widespread concern and a top campaign issue, according to the latest health tracking poll from Kaiser Health.

The findings come as a major threat to the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees protections for those with pre-existing conditions, is making its way through federal court in Texas. The lawsuit, filed by 20 Republican attorneys general and governors, could potentially upend the ACA.

Healthcare concerns

Four in 10 Americans are “very worried” that they or a family member will lose healthcare coverage if pre-existing conditions protections are overturned, according to the poll. The Trump administration announced that it will no longer defend this aspect of the ACA via the Department of Justice’s response to the lawsuit in Texas. The vast majority of voters also said it is “very important” that ACA provisions protecting those with pre-existing conditions remain in place.

That sentiment crosses partisan lines, as well. Among adults ages 18-64, 27 percent have a pre-existing condition that would have led to a denial before the ACA, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

However, 27 percent of voters most want to hear candidates talk about healthcare costs, with costs mentioned three times more often than any other healthcare issue. Nearly nine in 10 Americans say they are concerned about the increases in how much individuals pay for healthcare–six in 10 said they were “very worried” about these rising costs and being able to afford their own or a family member’s unexpected medical bills.  

Notably, voters were concerned about surprise, out-of-network medical bills, which have been a rising problem across the healthcare industry. One recent example that made headlines was a patient with health insurance who was handed a medical bill of $109,000 for out-of-network treatment he received for a heart attack.

About 40 percent of voters in Kaiser’s poll said they had received an unexpected medical bill, with one in 10 getting one from out of network.

Many voters blamed prescription drug companies for rising costs; 78 percent said companies taking too much money is a “major reason” for people paying so much more, up from 62 percent in 2014. About 60 percent of voters also said new drugs, treatments and medical technologies are very expensive and contribute to higher healthcare costs. The Trump administration has outlined several ideas to lower drug prices, but more than half of voters were skeptical that those efforts of calling out companies for raising prices would be “not too effective” or “not at all effective.”

Fraud and waste in the healthcare system, hospitals charging too much and insurance companies taking too much money were also top reasons for rising healthcare costs, according to voters.

Top campaign issues

Voters stated they wanted candidates to talk about healthcare, with 27 percent saying it was the most important issue and 54 percent stating it was very important but not the most important. Among battleground voters, healthcare was the third most important campaign topic, behind corruption (No. 1) and the economy and jobs (No. 2).

Voters were also worried about corruption in Washington, D.C. The latest poll was the first time Kaiser included corruption as a possible campaign topic. About one-third of independent and Democratic voters and 25 percent of Republican voters said corruption was the “most important” topic for 2018 candidates to discuss.

Beyond the top three topics, immigration, Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, gun policy, President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination, and tax cuts and tax reform were important issues for voters.