In Shift, Health Care Ties Economy as Voters Top Issue
Rising Healthcare Concerns Reshape Political Terrain
Recent polls have shown that for many Americans, their top concern as voters is the issue of health care. In a September poll by Morning Consult/POLITICO 24% of citizens surveyed responded that health care is their number one concern as voters for upcoming Senate and House elections.
The same percentage of respondents named the economy as their chief concern. This is the first time in over three years that health care has been an equal concern to American voters as the health of the economy.
The renewed interest in the nation’s health care systems seems to stem from Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Republican efforts to eliminate the ACA was blasted by late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel’s criticisms were shared many times on social media platforms and were frequently replayed on television news broadcasts.
54% of voters surveyed said they were aware of the comments made by Kimmel.
Some Republicans, however, attribute the recent revival of voter interest in health care matters to an entirely different factor.
These republicans believed that past President Obama’s health care bill has been a failure and that the American people want an end to Obama Care.
GOP Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are lead sponsors of a plan that would replace Obama Care. In a joint statement made to the press, the Senators expressed that Obama Care is a ‘failed law’ and that Americans ‘suffering’ because of the law.
The Lines Begin To Blur
Those that disagree with GOP assertions point out that the rise in importance of health care amongst voters is a recent phenomenon. It is more likely that the interest in health care is due to a change in ‘health care priorities’ amongst lawmakers. This opinion was expressed by Liz Hamel, of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Until the past summer, the health care fight was, for the most part, a partisan effort for, or against, the Affordable Care Act. The was until the July vote by Senator John McCain of Arizona that crossed party lines and defeated the first Obama Care repeal plan by Republicans in the Senate.
The spotlight on health care concerns only increased and American voters seemed anxious to use their vote on November 4 to take action regarding their concerns.
Elections for Governor in the states of New Jersey and Virginia, along with ballots in Ohio and Maine that contained health care measures gave voters in these four states the power to either change health care policy or vote for a Governor that would.
With more elections scheduled for 2018, perhaps this year’s election results have provided us with insight into the effect of the Trump Administration’s approach to health care in next year’s mid-term elections.
- Virginia- The race for Virginia Governor pitted Democratic Lieutenant Ralph Northam against Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. Northam is also a physician and was vocal in his intent to make health care a central theme to his Governorship if elected. Gillespie represents the opposing viewpoint and voiced his disfavor with the concept of Medicaid expansion. The people of Virginia elect Ralph Northam to be their next Governor in a close and contested race.
- New Jersey- Kim Guadagno, current state Lieutenant Governor is the Republican candidate. Guadagno showed almost no regard for health care concerns during her campaign as health care was not even listed as a policy issue on her official campaign website. Her opponent, Democrat Phil Murphy has spoken in support of the Affordable Care Act. The result of the race was a double-digit victory for Murphy.
- Ohio- Ohio voted on a ballot measure that if passed, would become the first legislature of its kind in the country. The measure would allow for state health agencies to receive the same 24% discount for prescriptions drugs that enjoyed by the United States Department Of Veteran Affairs. The initiative is known as Ohio ballot measure 2. Supporters estimate that the proposal would gain the state $400 million in savings, a number that raises the eyebrow of the proposal’s detractors. Ohioans voted against ballot measure 2 in large numbers.
- Maine- Residents of Maine were voting on a measure that would be watched closely by many. The measure proposed would expand Medicaid and demonstrate support for the ACA. Legislators in Maine have voted to expand Medicaid benefits each of the last five years but have been met with Vetoes each time by Governor Paul LePage. The fight this time has been taken straight to voters. Voters in Maine voted in support of Medicaid expansion.
In the aftermath of these November elections, Democrats walked away feeling both victorious and that they had a decided political edge among the nation’s voters in regards to the issue of health care. The hopes for Democrats is that this perceived advantage will pay dividends in next year’s mid-term elections.
While the impact that health care concerns on next year’s elections remain to be seen, One thing is certainly true. The concern Americans have expressed recently at healthcare issues are real and continuing to grow.