Written by: Alondra Jimenez and Yasmeen Zoheir of Temple University
It’s hard to believe that 2016 was four years ago. It seems like just yesterday that the nation was earnestly awaiting the results of the 2016 presidential election. Since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, regardless of political views, many things have changed. Therefore, it is expected that with the 2020 election there will be more change despite the results.
Both presidential candidates have their work cut out for them. There are several key issues that each candidate must address including gun rights and control, trade and tariffs, immigration, climate change, the economy, free college and student debt, and of course, health care. In a recent poll done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, health care was proven the top concern amongst voters.
But what exactly is health care in the realm of the presidential election? The United States government is structured as a balance between federal and state governments. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which expands Americans’ coverage options, mirrors a similar structure. The federal government provides the financing for subsidized coverage and sets a floor for insurance market regulations while states have the flexibility on how to implement it. Like many issues, republicans want to give greater responsibility to the states while democrats want to expand the federal role.
The ACA reduced America’s uninsured rate and narrowed the geographic variation in health insurance coverage. About 20 million people gained coverage, and the difference in adult uninsured rates between the highest (Texas) and lowest (Massachusetts) states narrowed by 5 percent. These improvements in coverage came from both federal regulation and subsidies and flexibility granted to states.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s platform consists of expanding the ACA and creating a public option like Medicare. His plan increases tax credits so that no family must spend more than 8.5% of their income on insurance in the individual marketplace. Additionally, his plan helps cover 4.9 million Americans who do not have access to Medicaid because their state has not expanded the low-income program. These individuals will be automatically covered under the public plan and will not be required to pay premiums. Biden has committed to the ACA and keeps it an integral part of his campaign.
President Donald Trump has gone against the ACA repeatedly. Under his administration, there were efforts to repeal the ACA several times in 2017. Republicans have not taken on health care reform since then, but, in early 2019, Trump showed interest in reforming health care legislation. He is focusing on areas that have a bipartisan appeal like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and ending surprise medical billing. Nevertheless, the president attacks Medicare for All and links it to socialism. Because he has not shared a clear plan, voters are unsure of what to expect regarding health care if there is another Trump administration.
The polling around health care has been hazy. Most Americans support universal health care, but the execution plans get mixed results. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, majority of voters support a single-payer, government-run plan—53% support while 45% oppose. However, that poll also shows higher support for other proposals like public option (69%), optional Medicare for All (74%), Medicaid buy-in (75%) and Medicare buy-in between ages 50 and 64 (77%). Additionally, it is a partisan issue that breaks down along party lines. The poll shows that 777% of Democrats favor a national health plan while 79% of Republicans oppose it.
Nevertheless, health care affects all Americans. The results of the election will affect health care and therefore all Americans. In an analysis by USAFacts, 37% of Americans are insured through the government though most Americans (65%) receive coverage through private insurance companies. But, more importantly, in 2018, 8% of Americans were still uninsured. Therefore, regardless of one’s political affiliations, voters must educate themselves and form their own opinion on the issue of health care. It is a key topic in the presidential election that may sway results one way or another.