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What are the health care issues that voters are focused on?


All this week, we're focused on health care as part of our We, The Voters, series. It's an issue that keeps showing up in polls of voters' concerns. Let's dig into that with Gabriel Sanchez. He's a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Dow Chair in health policy at the University of New Mexico. So Gabriel, how much of an important issue is health care in this election? What does it rank?

GABRIEL SANCHEZ: You know, this is a really important issue to voters. And although we're typically talking about the economy, immigration, even abortion policy, health care continues to be among the top five priority issues among voters across the country and most polls at this time of the year.

MARTÍNEZ: How does health care then overlap with other issues that voters believe are important to them?

SANCHEZ: Yeah, just to give you some context - you know, a recent ABC news poll conducted just earlier this month found that health care was fourth among all registered voters when we think about a range of different public policy issues. And it's important to note that that's independent of any of the other overlap we might see with other public policy issues, including abortion, which is in the top 10 in that ABC news poll, but not as high as health care. And one of the reasons, I think, for the saliency is there's a lot of overlap with the dominant policy concern of voters, which is inflation and the rising cost of living. In fact, when you ask voters in these polls, you know, when you're talking about the rising cost of just about everything you have to pay for, what is among the highest priorities for you? And most Americans include the rising health care costs they're experiencing, among other critical purchases they have to make, that unfortunately, they just don't have the resources to be able to keep up with the rising cost for.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, there's the link right there between health care and almost everything else. Is there a particular group that finds that healthcare is bigger for them than maybe it would be for another group?

SANCHEZ: One, in terms of race-ethnicity are Latino voters. It's important to note that Latinos have essentially had the lowest access to both health insurance and health care among any racial and ethnic group in the country over the last 10 years or so. So it's not surprising when you look at polls - for example, UnidosUS just conducted a recent survey, large sample survey of Latino voters. And they found that health care was third among all policy priorities, behind only the rising cost of living and jobs in the economy. So for Latino voters in particular, when you ask them, what exactly does it mean for you, again, similar to all Americans, it's the cost of health care - their premiums, their deductibles, being able to afford pharmaceuticals - all that is part of the reason why for Latinos in particular, health care remains a dominant priority.

MARTÍNEZ: President Biden has tried to use the Inflation Reduction Act to address health care costs, but Gabriel, do voters recognize it? Is he making that policy connection with voters?

SANCHEZ: You know, that's a tough thing for President Biden, because on one hand, he's able to argue to voters, look, through the Inflation Reduction Act, and particularly, I'm trying to target Medicare prices and allow Medicare to negotiate for some better rates for consumers. But at the end of the day, I think he's having a tough challenge getting that message through to voters with so much else going on. And the fact that, you know, the Inflation Reduction Act doesn't scream health care or reduction of health care costs. Good news for Biden is, in all of these polls, when you look at who voters perceive to be better on health care, that's one of the issue areas where President Biden actually has an advantage over Trump. So he's doing well in this policy area, but I think getting out his message and particularly emphasizing what he's doing, both with the ACA and the IRA will have huge implications for whether or not he's able to make up some overall ground with Trump in some of these polls as we approach November.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Gabriel Sanchez, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Dow Chair in Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. Gabriel, Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Thank you for having me.

MARTÍNEZ: And a note here that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a funder of NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.