Pollsters tell us that health care was basically a non-issue in the 2022 mid-term elections as voters prioritized inflation, crime, and immigration.
That’s the first time in the last seven elections—mid-terms and presidentials since 2008—that it hasn’t been a top-tier issue.
Voters are exhausted, especially after passage of the Inflation “Reduction” Act in August that likely has locked in a huge expansion of Obamacare while crippling investments in pharmaceutical advances. And Medicaid expansion is on autopilot with 90 million Americans swelling the ranks of a program designed for the poor and vulnerable.
If voters do mention health care, it is the perennial issue of costs. Politicians are doing everything they can to push as much health spending as possible onto taxpayers, but it’s apparently still not enough. Meanwhile, Medicare is careening toward bankruptcy.
So what to do…
Democrats in the House elected their leadership this week, none of whom has been a leader in the health care space. Republicans have a stronger bench on the issue, especially Steve Scalise who will become Majority Leader, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers who will chair the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.
With the American people basically tuned out, we can expect mostly small-ball initiatives. But with the health sector representing nearly one-fifth of the American economy, even small changes can have a big impact.
Democrats can be expected to continue their march to expand government programs—especially the ACA and Medicaid, including a buy-in to Medicaid for people with disabilities who aren’t currently eligible.
A webinar yesterday sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center invited pollsters and policy experts from both sides of the aisle to look at what’s to come.
The expected expiration of the COVID public health emergency next year will create a brouhaha over ending massive additional federal spending, including the 6.2% boost to states for Medicaid that forbade them from purging their rolls of ineligibles (the great majority of whom are eligible for coverage elsewhere).
As I wrote earlier, I hope Republicans will build on the infrastructure that already exists to advance a patient-centered health sector, devolving power away from Washington to give people more control over their health spending and healthcare choices.
Some positive advances would be extending COVID-inspired access to telehealth services and allowing more portability of health benefits. Two examples: Giving employees the ability to buy health insurance outside the workplace with tax-preferred dollars. And allowing people to put some of their health insurance premium money or subsidies into a personal account to pay out-of-pocket and other health expenditures.
We are all in to support these initiatives that would give people a voice in their healthcare arrangements and begin to wrest control from Washington over healthcare’s power lines.