Health Care Takes Center Stage as #NursesVote in Midterm Elections

  

Two weeks ahead of Election Day, health care continues to dominate campaign-related headlines and the attention of voters across the country, with one recent poll finding that 71% of Americans describe health care as “very important” in helping them decide how they’ll vote this year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently gave an interview in which he described his caucus’s failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a major “disappointment,” and indicated that they would make another attempt to do so should Republicans hold their majority in the Senate (it’s likely the House would follow suit if it, too, remained under Republican control).

It was unclear if McConnell’s comment that he and his colleagues are “not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working” meant that they would be willing to reconsider legislative steps to stabilize the individual insurance marketplace, an idea that is more likely to garner bipartisan support. Previous Senate attempts to repeal and replace the ACA have garnered support from most – but not all – Republicans.

The majority leader also claimed that “Entitlements are the long-term drivers of the debt,” referring to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Passing legislation that reduces spending on such programs would be politically treacherous and is not a talking point that Republican candidates in more moderate districts and states seem eager to include in their campaign messaging.

In House races, protections for patients with pre-existing conditions have taken on increased importance, with candidates from both sides of the aisle insisting to voters that they consider those protections sacred. This is a tougher sell for Republicans who voted in favor of the American Health Care Act, which would have hobbled those protections as implemented by the ACA.

Many Democratic candidates, in addition to supporting ACA stabilization, are also calling for a system that helps even more uninsured Americans get access to health coverage. While only some have embraced a version of a single-payer system (most commonly referred to as Medicare for All), President Trump recently published an opinion piece in USA Today in which he claimed that such a system “would mean the end of choice for seniors over their own health care decisions.” The piece was widely criticized for containing factual errors, and polls continue to find that a majority of voters – including Republicans – support a single-payer system in some form.

As congressional campaigns race to the finish line, this year’s Open Enrollment period kicks off on November 1, with the Trump administration continuing to approve waivers to states that want  their residents health coverage that falls short of the requirements implemented by the ACA. While not tied to a specific piece of federal legislation, these efforts would be more sharply questioned by a Democratic-controlled House or Senate, with the possibility of legislation being passed that aims to stop them. This dynamic also underscores the importance of supporting candidates at the state level who want to ensure that patients have access to meaningful, comprehensive health insurance.

As you review the issues and the candidates running in your congressional district and state, ANA-PAC recently finalized its list of congressional endorsements for the 2018 election cycle, supporting candidates from both parties who are committed to advancing the nursing profession and ensuring that nurses have substantive input when lawmakers are crafting health policy. To find your polling place, request an absentee ballot, or find out how to vote early, please visit our #NursesVote Action Center and make certain that your voice is heard on this pivotal Election Day.

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Author: Matthew Fitting

Matthew Fitting is an Advocacy and Engagement Specialist with the American Nurses Association.

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