The elections last week confirmed what we know to be true — health care is the number one issue for voters. Just as health care propelled House Democrats to win the majority in 2018, it once again delivered for Democrats in 2019 and is poised to be the issue that helps Democrats win elections in 2020.
Democratic candidates won in Kentucky and Virginia because they made health care a centerpiece of their campaigns. Voters trusted the Democrats who vowed to expand and fully fund Medicaid, strengthen protections for pre-existing conditions and hold drug companies accountable for skyrocketing prices.
They rejected the Republicans who want to slash Medicaid, strip protections for pre-existing conditions and let drug and insurance companies continue to profit while raising costs on Americans.
Polling reinforces these results. A recent national survey conducted by Hart Research for Protect Our Care found the differences in voter attitudes towards Republicans and Democrats on health care to be extremely definitive and confirm what last week’s (and last year’s) elections made clear: when it comes to health care, voters overwhelmingly trust Democrats more than Republicans.
Additionally, the specific measures Democrats are focusing on when it comes to health care, especially health care costs, are extremely popular with Americans across the political spectrum.
Key measures like giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices and reining in drug and insurance companies are supported by the majority of Americans and are at the center of House Democrats’ landmark drug pricing bill, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3). The bill takes aggressive measures to lower costs and hold drug companies responsible for creating a system rigged against Americans.
In contrast, nearly every position that Republicans have taken, and continue to take on health care, remains incredibly unpopular with voters. Whether it’s their support for the Texas lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, their position on slashing funding for Medicaid and Medicare or their position on rolling back Medicaid expansion, the American people see the overarching Republican agenda on health care as kicking people off their coverage, raising costs and lining the pockets of drug and insurance companies.
It’s not just the data that tells us Democrats are winning on health care, it’s the results.
Andy Beshear won in Kentucky by promising to restore Medicaid expansion and put Matt Bevin’s sabotage of Medicaid and his support for onerous work requirements front and center.
In Virginia, candidates across the Commonwealth highlighted the success of Medicaid expansion, spoke out about the need to lower prescription drug costs and ensure Virginians with pre-existing conditions maintain their protections. In doing so, Virginia Democrats showed voters that they are serious about improving and expanding health care.
We are roughly a year from the 2020 elections and there’s every indication that health care will remain at the very top of voters concerns. Between now and then there will be a likely decision in the Trump-Republican lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which, if successful, would strip coverage from 20 million Americans and protections from 135 million more with pre-existing conditions. Democrats should be reminding voters of that fact every day.
Looking ahead to next year, the argument for Democrats to keep winning on health care is a simple and effective one: focus on costs, focus on expanding access and contrast Democrats’ positive vision with that of Republican’s repeated and ongoing efforts to sabotage American health care.
If last week’s elections were a reaffirmation that Democrats can win on health care, they also served as a stark reminder that there’s still much work to do to remind voters that Democrats are the only party fighting for them.
Brad Woodhouse is the executive director of Protect Our Care. A longtime Democratic strategist, he previously served as president of American Bridge 21st Century, president of Correct the Record and communications director at the Democratic National Committee.