Health Reform WK-EDGE Health care costs coming in fast in race to voter priorities
Friday, May 10, 2019

Health care costs coming in fast in race to voter priorities

By Cathleen Calhoun, J.D.

Most Americans say no surprises, please, in health care costs.

Medicare-for-all and the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) are on the minds of many in Washington, D.C., but most Americans are more concerned about other issues of health care—lower prescription drugs, protection for preexisting conditions, and a cushion in case of surprise medical bills—according to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Tracking Poll. Health care insurance for all and the continuation of the ACA remain important issues, but more important to some than to others.

Top priorities. What issues should be among the "top priorities" for Congress? The poll of Americans from varying backgrounds found the following:

  • 68 percent said lowering prescription drug costs for as many people as possible
  • 64 percent said making sure the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing health conditions continue
  • 50 percent said protecting people from surprise medical bills

The "top priority" for Congress numbers were lower for other issues—implement a national Medicare-for-all plan (31 percent), repeal and replace the ACA (27 percent), and expand government financial help for those who buy their own coverage on the ACA marketplaces (26 percent).

Preexisting conditions. Seven in ten Americans responded that the provision of the ACA ( §1201, P.L. 111-148) that prevents health insurance companies from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions is "very important" to them. The poll also found that should the Supreme Court hear the case Texas v. United States, a federal lawsuit that argues that the ACA is invalid and should be overturned, most Americans do not want the justices to overturn the pre-existing condition protections (68%) or the entire law (54%).

Medicare-for-all. The poll found that 56 percent of people are for a national Medicare-for-all plan, while around 50 percent have favorable views of the ACA. Unfavorable views for a national Medicare-for-all plan were at 38 percent, and unfavorable views of the ACA were at 38 percent as well.

No surprises. Polling has found that surprise medical bills have impacted many insured adults, with about one in five noting that they have received a surprise bill from an out-of-network provider in the past two years. Over three-fourths of the public responded in the poll that the federal government should do something to protect patients from covering the cost of care when patients are:

  • taken to an emergency room by an out-of-network ambulance (78 percent)
  • taken to an out-of-network emergency room during a medical emergency (78 percent)
  • are at an in-network hospital but treated by an out-of-network doctor or specialist (76 percent)

Should the government pay the bills? No consensus was found on that question. Almost half responded that both the provider and the insurance company should cover the cost of care (47 percent). A similar number said that the insurance company should cover the cost of care (43 percent).

Poll methodology. The poll took place April 11-16, 2019, with a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,203 adults (by landline (301) and cell phone (902)) and in Spanish and English. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample.

Companies: Kaiser Family Foundation

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