- Likely voters in 10 battleground states polled by The Commonwealth Fund said the most important healthcare issues for them were addressing the public health needs and economic costs of COVID-19 and protecting health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions. Third on the list was lowering healthcare costs.
- Voters who are younger, Black and Hispanic were more likely to list COVID-19 as the top concern while older and White voters were more likely to choose pre-existing condition protection.
- Respondents said they trusted Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden on all three of those issues over President Donald Trump.
As the nation passed a milestone of 200,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 this week and the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cast renewed focus on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, health issues will no doubt be top of mind for many voters as they cast their ballots.
Oral arguments on the latest Republican effort to dismantle the law are scheduled precisely one week after the presidential election. Ginsburg was expected to be a sure vote in favor of keeping the landmark legislation as the law of the land.
Trump's Department of Justice has declined to defend the ACA and the president has said the law should be overturned.
Although the law has been politically polarizing, protections for pre-existing conditions is among the most popular parts. Yet, the administration has promoted plans that allow insurers to sell plans without such protections.
Trump has repeatedly promised an executive order to protect pre-existing condition coverage, but no text has been issued, and the ACA already does so. In any event, such protection could not be accomplished by executive order alone, and would require legislative action.
Biden, of course, helped usher the law through Congress as vice president. His healthcare platform calls for building on the law, in particular through a public option.
The Trump administration's response to the pandemic has been widely criticized. Public health officials have maligned his tendency to publicly doubt science officials, lack of a nationwide plan for testing and contact tracing and his refusal to back measures like mask wearing. There has been significant progress toward a potential vaccine, although the FDA has stressed it will impose strict guidelines for authorizing or approving a vaccine candidate.
Trump on Wednesday said that "sounds like a political move."
Biden's plan for addressing the pandemic includes a nationwide mask mandate and evidence-based guidance for re-opening communities. It focuses on ramping up testing, and Biden has said he would use the Defense Production Act to produce more personal protective equipment.
As for lowering healthcare costs, Biden's platform calls for using existing antitrust authority to combat market concentration in the industry. Trump has focused on pharmaceutical costs, including an executive order last week to set Medicare drug prices based on the lowest amount paid for medicines in developed countries. It still has to go through the regular rulemaking process, though, so likely won't be in place for months.
Nearly every subsector supported Biden for responding to the pandemic and lowering healthcare costs. Those subsectors include women, men, Black, Hispanic, White and party affiliation. The only subsector The Commonwealth Fund identified as preferring Trump over Biden was those who said they were Republican. About 9% of Republicans chose Biden for COVID-19 response, 13% for pre-existing conditions and 10% for lowering healthcare costs.
The poll was a telephone survey of 7,442 adults (the majority reached by cell phone) and conducted by SSRS from Aug. 25 to Sept. 20. The margin of error is +/- 1.7 percentage points.