Healthcare costs a top concern for Republican and Democratic voters

By Jilian Mincer and Erin McPike
Reuters, December 21, 2015

Americans want to know what the next U.S. president will do to lower their rising healthcare costs, a priority shared by Republican and Democratic voters and second only to keeping the country safe, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.

In all, 62 percent of people surveyed said they would want to know about a presidential candidate’s plan for reducing healthcare costs, according to the online poll conducted Dec. 14-18.

While Republican and Democratic candidates are worlds apart on how to address healthcare, poll results show roughly the same proportion of Republican voters, or 62 percent, view it as a priority compared with 67 percent of Democrats, highlighting their frustration with rising drug prices, insurance premiums and deductibles ahead of the 2016 vote.

The only topic that attracted more interest was national security, as 67 percent wanted to know more about how presidential candidates planned to keep the country safe.

U.S. employers have been shifting more health coverage costs onto workers, particularly through high deductible health insurance plans, which can reach $6,600 in out of pocket costs for an individual and $13,200 for a family before insurance kicks in. Many of these changes have been ushered in with President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, as well as recent sharp increases in some prescription drug costs.

Republican strategists said party candidates are more focused on national security and the economy as dominant issues, noting they have little to gain by offering a detailed plan to tackle healthcare costs that could run up against major business interests, including the pharmaceutical industry.

“I’m on Obamacare, and it’s a horrible situation,” said Fred Voeltner, 64, who was laid off in 2009 and now pays for his own insurance. He is frustrated by how far he has to travel for care and how much more he has to pay each visit. “I’m open-minded,” he said. “But I expect to vote for a Republican.”…

Unhappiness over the high costs of health care is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats want to know the presidential candidates’ proposals to lower health care costs – a priority almost as great as their concern about national security.

Lest Democrats be smug over the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, it is ACA’s higher deductibles and narrower networks actually brought to us by the Democrats that have further infuriated voters over runaway health care costs.

Republicans keep promising us their replacement plan – the latest promise being by House Speaker Paul Ryan – but they fail to deliver. They actually prefer a “trust us” approach instead of providing specifics, since their telegraphed preferences would worsen patient affordability and access.

In the Reuters article, Fred Voeltner says that he is “frustrated by how far he has to travel for care and how much more he has to pay each visit” – consequences of narrow networks and high deductibles. But he is “open-minded” and expects “to vote for a Republican.” People are having trouble giving the Democrats credit for reform when they can’t see their own doctor and can’t pay their deductibles.

Democrats are now gathering around a candidate that would perpetuate our highly flawed financing system. On the other hand, another candidate – a democratic socialist running for the Democratic nomination – advocates for an affordable model that is supported by a majority of Americans – a single payer Medicare for all.

Unfortunately, presidential politics are complex. When you ask people why they are supporting a given candidate, you will only rarely hear single payer mentioned. Even though they want our next president to fix the health care cost problem, the answers you will hear are meaningless sound bites such as, he will “Make America Great Again.” When final ballots are cast, they will be based more on political personalities rather than public policy.

This brings to mind a quote of Winston Churchill, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (House of Commons, November 11, 1947).

Churchill also said, “At the bot­tom of all the trib­utes paid to democ­racy is the lit­tle man, walk­ing into the lit­tle booth, with a lit­tle pen­cil, mak­ing a lit­tle cross on a lit­tle bit of paper — no amount of rhetoric or volu­mi­nous dis­cus­sion can pos­si­bly dimin­ish the over­whelm­ing impor­tance of that point.” (House of Com­mons, Octo­ber 31, 1944