Voters say Rx drug costs and better provider networks are top priorities

Health care is not playing a major role in the 2016 election campaign, finishing last or near the bottom of the list of voter issues, according to the October 2016 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. Instead, the most important issues to the public are the presidential candidates, the economy and jobs, foreign policy, immigration, and social issues.

Non-health issues lead the way

According to the Tracking Poll, the most important issues among Democrats, Independents, and Republicans can be broken down as follows:

  • Among Democratic voters, the presidential candidates are the most important issue (36 percent), followed by the economy and jobs (30 percent), foreign policy (14 percent), social issues (12 percent), health care (9 percent), and immigration (9 percent).
  • Among Independent voters, the economy and jobs are the most important issue (29 percent), followed by the presidential candidates (27 percent), foreign policy (22 percent), immigration (8 percent), social issues (7 percent), and health care (6 percent).
  • Among Republican voters, the economy and jobs (34 percent) and foreign policy (34 percent) tied for the most important issues, followed by the presidential candidates (23 percent), immigration (20 percent), social issues (8 percent), and health care (5 percent).

Top health care issues

When asked to prioritize their health care concerns, the public said that making sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions are affordable (74 percent), government action to lower prescription drug prices (63 percent), and making sure health plans have sufficient provider networks of doctors and hospitals (57 percent) were the most important.

Additional health care concerns were by the public as follows:

  • Protecting people from high prices when they visit an in-network hospital but are seen by an out-of-network doctor (54 percent).
  • Making information comparing quality of care by doctors and hospitals more available (53 percent).
  • Making information about the price of visits, tests, and procedures more available (50 percent).
  • Making information about what doctors and hospitals are covered under different health plans more available (49 percent).
  • Helping people with moderate incomes pay high out-of-pocket costs (44 percent).
  • Repealing the requirement that nearly all Americans have insurance or pay a fine (38 percent).
  • Repealing the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (37 percent).

Public health care option

The poll also examined the public’s view on a public health care option to compete with private plans in the ACA marketplaces. When asked if they favored a public health insurance option to compete with private insurance plans in the ACA marketplaces, 70 percent favored the public option (34 percent strongly favoring and 36 percent somewhat favoring) and 23 percent were opposed (15 percent strongly opposed and 8 percent somewhat opposed).

However, when asked if they favored a “government administered” public health insurance option the results were less favorable, with 54 percent in favor (25 percent strongly in favor and 29 percent somewhat in favor) and 41 percent opposed (27 percent strongly opposed and 14 percent somewhat opposed).

In addition, 21 percent of those in favor shifted their opinion to opposing the public option after hearing the argument that doctors and hospitals would be paid less. Likewise, 27 percent of those in favor shifted to opposing the public option after hearing that the government plan would have an unfair advantage over private insurers.

The ACA’s future

The poll continued to show that Americans’ view of the ACA is divided down political party lines. The majority of Democrats (76 percent) had a favorable view of the ACA, while most Republicans (83 percent) expressed an unfavorable view. Independents also leaned negative, with 52 percent expressing an unfavorable view.