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Not all elections are the same. In 2018, voters were motivated by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, backlash against Donald Trump, tax cuts that went mostly in favor of the wealthy, and efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. After a 2020 election dominated by the pandemic and high unemployment, the leading issues this year are inflation, abortion and threats to democracy.
But although they have received less attention, health care and social security are also on the ballot in 2022. Both are economic issues that matter greatly for a good and decent life.
Surveys show that some voters care about certain health issues more than others.
The Inflation Reduction Act includes a slew of provisions that will make prescription drugs cheaper for seniors — and it matters to them.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s October Health Tracker survey, “provisions aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs for people with Medicare resonate with some voters, including those age 65 and older. About two-thirds of voters age 65 and older say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports limiting out-of-pocket insulin costs for people with Medicare (64 percent) or authorizing the federal government to negotiate the cost of some prescription drugs for people with Medicare (65 percent) and three-quarters of older voters (73 percent) say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports putting a cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for people with Medicare. “
Overall, the top health care issue for voters is abortion, and it has become increasingly important since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The KFF poll found that “half of voters (50 percent) now say the court decision has made them more motivated to vote, compared to 43 percent who said the same in July and a 13 percentage point increase over a similar question in May, ” with the topic most affecting women between the ages of 18 and 49. Whether and when a woman can have a legal abortion has huge financial implications for her.
On these health issues, there are clear differences between parties and candidates. Democratic candidates in Maine from Gov. Janet Mills on down generally support abortion rights, and Rep. Jared Golden and Rep. Chellie Pingree voted for legislation that would reduce prescription drug costs. Top Republican candidates tend to take opposing positions.
Also, if Republicans gain control in Augusta or Washington, DC, it is very likely that they will cut people’s health coverage.
When he was governor, Paul LePage infamously blocked the MaineCare expansion even after the people of Maine voted for it at the ballot box, and he never said he was wrong.
By contrast, Mills expanded coverage to nearly 100,000 Mainers, which dropped the state’s uninsured to 5.7 percent. Dental coverage was added to MaineCare. Maine’s COVID response was ranked second best in the nation by the Commonwealth Fund.
The last time Bruce Poliquin, who is running again for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat, was in office, he voted to repeal the ACA, which would have thrown tens of millions out of health care, a vote he took after he mugged a reporter in an unforgettable privacy in the bathroom incident. In a previous campaign, ads touted his vote for a budget that would begin privatizing Medicare.
Now, prominent Republicans in Congress, including House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, say they will push for cuts to Social Security and Medicare if they win control of the House or Senate. Partial privatization of these programs would be one way to cut them. Some Republicans are also proposing raising the age for Medicare to 67 and the age for Social Security to 70.
To get these cuts, which President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats oppose and are proposing after the deficit has been reduced rapidly under Biden, Republicans are threatening to default on the US debt already accumulated. Bankruptcy, or even the possibility of one, would harm the US and global economy.
With all the focus on other issues, and with Republicans quietly talking about these massively unpopular plans while using vague, positive-sounding descriptors like “modernize,” “strengthen,” and “personalize,” many voters are unaware of how important this election is to their social security, medical assistance and health care. It matters a lot.