Nearly seven in 10 voters (68%), regardless of political party affiliation, believe people with pre-existing health conditions should have access to coverage without paying more, according to a survey conducted just before and during the midterm Congressional elections by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
The study, which surveyed 2,400 voters and was released Tuesday, also found 82% don't think insurance companies should be able to charge higher prices to sicker customers, 90% would be "concerned" (and 78% would be "very concerned") if pre-existing conditions were no longer required to be covered by insurance.
Healthcare defined the midterms, with a majority of voters nationally reporting it as a key issue in deciding how to cast their ballots. Pre-existing conditions played a large role, and public pressure coerced many candidates to come out in support of protecting coverage regardless of their past voting record. The pressure didn't come out of nowhere, either. Almost half of the people surveyed by ACS CAN either have — or have a family member who has — a pre-existing medical condition.
The 2018 Congressional midterms was the first time since the economic downturn of 2008 that the economy wasn't the most important topic for voters. It was usurped by healthcare, which was the leading issue for voters, (27% according to the ACS CAN survey), following by immigration (25%), the economy and jobs (19%), government dysfunction (19%) and education (15%).
"These numbers clearly illustrate what voters expect when lawmakers commit to uphold pre-existing condition protections," Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN, said in a statement accompanying the report. "Voters understand that simply prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on your health status alone isn't enough."
The Affordable Care Act brought pre-existing condition protection into law in 2010. But the Trump administration has consistently undermined the ACA, most recently by expanding access to skimpy short-term and association health plans that aren't required to cover pre-existing conditions.
And a Texas lawsuit could potentially wipe out those protections altogether, though the judge has yet to release his decision. Many speculated he was waiting until after the midterms due to the political cost of striking down the ACA.
ACS CAN found "strong support" for protecting pre-existing conditions across all demographics and party affiliations. Three-quarters of Democrats and 59% of Republicans defined coverage for pre-existing conditions as getting the same amount of medical coverage without paying more.
As the lawsuit languishes in the Lone Star State, Senate Republicans introduced a bill in mid-August that purports to maintain coverage in case pre-existing condition protection is lost. But the proposal isn't as strong as the ACA, critics say, and the midterms were a harsh reckoning for Republicans when it comes to healthcare. The party lost 39 seats in the House alone.
A soft majority of voters agreed that things are "better than they used to be" in American healthcare but continue to worry that proposed changes will make pre-existing condition coverage out of reach. If pre-existing condition protections are lost, about 102 million Americans would be put at risk of steep premiums or exclusion from coverage, according to Avalere.
"We hope these results resonate with elected officials at the federal and state levels as they consider how to strengthen our nation’s health care system," Hansen said.
The poll weighted its initial survey data to reflect Congressional vote as reported in the 2018 exit polls, and was fielded by Lake Research Partners, a public opinion and political strategy research company, and Republican strategic research firm The Tarrance Group.