According to an NBC/WSJ poll released Thursday, 22 percent of registered voters rank health care as the issue most important to their vote, followed closely by “the economy and jobs” at 19 percent. This roughly tracks with other polling on voter priorities, including a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released in May that found 22 percent of registered voters considered health care “the most important issue for the candidates to talk about.” In that poll, the economy led with 23 percent. Voters with health care on their minds, Kaiser found, are primarily interested in hearing candidates talk about lowering health care costs.
That’s good news for congressional Democrats, who are planning to do just that. Sen. Chuck Schumer said this week he will use August’s cancelled recess to push votes on boosting insurance tax credits and measures aimed at lowering prescription drug costs. Schumer’s list of planned proposals also includes a Medicare buy-in of some kind, reflecting the party’s leftward shift on health care policy. All available evidence suggests that voters are willing to back that shift. Kaiser found in March that 59 percent of Americans support Medicare for all and that 75 percent of Americans, including 64 percent of Republicans, support the offering of a government insurance plan as a public option. If Democrats do unite behind a buy-in or public option plan late this summer, they’ll have several extant proposals to choose from, including two Medicare buy in plans offered by Senators Tim Kaine, Michael Bennet, Chris Murphy, and Jeff Merkley and a Medicaid buy-in plan from Sen. Brian Schatz.
The polls also suggest health care will continue to be a headache for Republicans. Repealing the ACA remains unpopular and only 26 percent of Republican voters say promises to reduce government spending on health care would make them more likely to support a candidate, according to Kaiser. Despite this, a number of leading conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, are reportedly planning to offer a new ACA repeal proposal this month that would, among other things, end the state Medicaid expansions and block grant health care funds. The chances of another serious repeal effort in Congress are incredibly slim and will only get slimmer as November draws closer. Of course, even idle talk about giving repeal another go will be a boon to Democratic messaging.