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Healthcare Is #1 Issue in the Mid-term Elections

With election season in full gear, healthcare is again the top issue on the minds of voters. In congressional races across the nation, candidates are sparring over health coverage. Democrats have seized upon Republican incumbents’ votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and with it, important consumer protections, particularly for people with preexisting conditions. Many Republican incumbents who voted for ACA repeal are now playing defense, trying to convince voters that they support consumer protections.

Healthcare is clearly a very personal and emotional issue for all Americans. In more than 20 competitive districts across the nation, candidates on both sides of the aisle are appealing to voters by running ads that feature candidates’ dramatic personal stories about their healthcare challenges, often featuring constituents or family members.

For example, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) recently released an ad featuring a local farmer holding his son who has a preexisting condition, citing GOP challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer’s votes against such protections. Likewise, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) is running a defensive ad that touts his commitment to preexisting condition protections.

Healthcare has become a major issue in many of New York’s congressional races as well, most notably the in 19th Congressional District race between Representative John Faso and Democratic lawyer Antonio Delgado, and in the 24th District race between GOP Representative John Katko and Democratic challenger Dana Balter.

The 2018 mid-term election cycle dynamic is a striking 360-degree reversal from the mid-term elections in 2010 after President Obama was elected.

Public opinion has clearly shifted. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approval of Obamacare has reached an all-time high (54%). Likewise, the Kaiser poll showed that 75% of Americans want to keep the ACA’s provisions that prevent health plans from “denying coverage based on a person’s medical history” and 72% want to retain the provision that prevents insurers from “charging sick people more.”

HANYS strongly opposed repeal of the ACA last year because the law, while imperfect, has expanded access to affordable health insurance and includes important consumer protections. Instead, we advocated for ACA improvements. It’s not surprising that Americans of all political stripes want to preserve some parts of the ACA—when important consumer protections become the law of the land, people take notice when there is a danger that these protections could be rescinded.

Meanwhile, despite efforts to prevent Medicaid expansion, voters in three conservative states — Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah — will choose whether to expand Medicaid via a ballot initiative. Pollsters say they have a good chance of passing. In Montana, which adopted Medicaid expansion in 2015, voters will be able to decide whether to extend the benefit beyond July 1, 2019. In Maine, a Medicaid expansion ballot referendum passed, but Governor Paul LePage is fighting to prevent its implementation. Looking past the elections, several states, such as Georgia, Florida and Wisconsin, would likely move toward expanding Medicaid if Democrats prevail in gubernatorial contests in November.

The mid-term election results will determine which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s a safe bet that healthcare will continue to be a top-tier issue when the 116th Congress is seated in January, no matter who is in control.