Poll: Health Care Top Legislative Priority for 2020

(CN) – A vast majority of Americans say lowering health care and prescription drug costs are the most important policy issues for President Donald Trump and Congress to tackle before the November election, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

In the Politico-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey of 1,011 adults between Jan. 21 and 26, researchers found that 80% of respondents indicated that taking steps to lower the cost of health care is their top legislative priority for 2020, followed by 75% of respondents who prioritized taking steps to lower prescription drug prices.

Respondents ranked these issues as “extremely” or “very important” in the survey. Both issues, centered around medical costs, were the top priorities for both Democrats and Republicans.

Eighty-nine percent and 85% of Democrats prioritized lowering health care costs and prescription costs, respectively. Among Republican respondents, 76% prioritized lowering health care costs and 69% prioritized lowering drug prices.

Americans’ next policy priorities for 2020 are increases to federal spending on public education and efforts to combat hate crimes based on race, religion or gender, which both tied at 63%.

Bipartisan majorities also favored efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, at 59% for Democrats and 58% for Republicans. Similarly, 58% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans prioritized rebuilding infrastructure. Respondents were least supportive of reducing corporate regulation, at 23% for Democrats and 30% for Republicans.

However, Democrats and Republicans diverged from the overall average when asked about priorities other than health care and drug costs. Democratic respondents’ next priority was addressing hate crimes at 76%, followed by a new buy-in addition to Medicare at 74%. In contrast, Republican respondents prioritized restricting unauthorized immigration into the U.S. at 67% and reducing federal spending at 65%.

Though Medicare for All was not considered a top priority based on the aggregate data, it indicated a significant schism between the two major political parties. Seventy-one percent of Democrats said the proposed nationalized health care program was a priority, but only 29% of Republicans said the same. Similarly, 68% of Democrats supported increased spending to combat climate change, whereas only 30% of Republicans backed such spending.

Essentially, the data revealed that an overwhelming majority favored reducing medical costs, either at the doctor’s office or at the pharmacy, but Democrats and Republicans disagreed on more transformative solutions for reducing individual costs.

Though a significant majority of Democrats did support the concept of Medicare for All, Harvard professor and survey co-director Robert J. Blendon highlighted their prioritization of direct costs.

“The poll results show that after the Democratic primaries are over, the focus for the public in their voting is going to be the pocketbook issue of lowering their health care costs and prescription drug prices, not major health system reform,” Blendon said.

A health care overhaul is nonetheless a top priority for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont and current frontrunner, whose Medicare for All proposal would consolidate health care costs at the federal level to be paid through progressive tax increases.

In explaining his health care proposal, Sanders often ties the three issues together and says that a Medicare for All system would directly address both individual health care costs and prescription drug prices.

However, during the Democratic debate in New Hampshire on Feb. 7, Sanders did highlight that reducing drug prices is a priority for both major political parties and could be a way to find bipartisanship in Congress.

Though President Trump has criticized the Affordable Care Act – more commonly known as Obamacare, after his predecessor – and has sought to remove provisions of the law in the federal courts, Trump also highlighted the need to reduce health care costs as recently as the State of the Union address on Feb. 4. During the speech, Trump pledged to “protect patients with pre-existing conditions” and touted a proposal to reduce health care costs by 60%.

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