Voter anxiety about the rising cost of health care could spell trouble for Republicans, who have spent the entirety of the Trump administration enacting policies that significantly increase health care premiums.
Health care costs top the list of health care issues voters want to hear about from candidates running for office, according to a Kaiser health tracking poll. And even Republicans know this is bad news.
“There will be 11 million people who are between jobs, who are self-employed, who are working, who literally cannot afford insurance, and they’re not going to be very happy. And they’re going to blame every one of us, and they should,” says Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
“When asked to say in their own words what health care issue they most want to hear the candidates talk about during their upcoming campaigns, one-fifth (22 percent) of registered voters mention health care costs,” says Kaiser.
In California, Republican changes to health care laws are a significant factor in premium increases of up to 30 percent next year. Further, the policy changes are contributing to an increase of 6.4 million uninsured people, including more than 1.6 million Californians.
If Californians listen to Alexander and are looking for someone to blame they could start with Reps. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and Mimi Walters (R-Irvine). Both pledged to reign in health care costs, yet both voted repeatedly for policies that would cause costs to soar.
In 2017, both Knight and Walters voted for the Republican bill to repeal and replace the ACA. Rather than work in a bipartisan way to help improve the bill, these two voted to “impose an unfair and unacceptable ‘age tax,'” according to AARP. The bill would have allowed “insurance companies to charge people between the ages of 50 and 64 (those too young for Medicare) five times what they can charge younger consumers.”
That same bill would have removed protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and ultimately increased the number of uninsured by more than 20 million people.
While that bill failed to become law, Knight and Walters continued their unrelenting assault on health care. Provisions impacting health care made their way into the increasingly unpopular tax bill, which only became law because of the votes of California Republicans like Knight and Walters.
It is those provisions that are responsible for the spike in health care costs Californians will see.
“The working middle class that are not getting subsidies got hit hardest in 2018 and would be hit hardest in 2019,” Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, told the L.A. Times in January.
Experts across the board expect higher premiums next year, and insurance companies will release the rate increases in October, less than a month before the midterm election.