Emergency medical bills worry Americans — and it could affect the presidential election

News Room
  • Most American voters are concerned about healthcare costs, which impacts their economic outlook.
  • Eighty percent of voters think it’s important for presidential candidates to discuss medical prices.
  • Three in four adults say that unexpected medical bills are one of their top financial worries.

Most Americans worry they won’t be able to pay expensive medical bills if they experience an emergency, and it’s impacting their economic outlook.

Ahead of the presidential election, 80% of voters — regardless of party affiliation — believe it’s “very important” for candidates to discuss healthcare costs on the campaign trail, according to a survey of 1,309 adults by KFF (formerly known as Kaiser Family Foundation) between January 30 and February 7.

Three in four adults say that unexpected medical bills are one of their top financial worries. Voters also identified prescription drug prices, out-of-pocket medical costs, and The Affordable Care Act as priorities for how they will vote in the 2024 election.

So far, the survey showed that neither President Joe Biden nor former President Donald Trump —the GOP frontrunner — have a clear advantage with voters on healthcare issues.

Voters across the aisle worry about healthcare costs

An individual’s assessment of the national economic landscape is largely shaped by their own experience with money, the survey found.

Affordability concerns affect voters similarly across the aisle. Over 70% of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents answered that general healthcare costs are their main financial stressor.

That may be because healthcare costs are rising. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services expects American healthcare spending to increase an average of 5.5% annually through 2031. One in six insured adults skipped or postponed medical care because of cost last year, and over 20% of people delayed filling necessary prescriptions, per KFF.

Additionally, about 40% of adults have some form of medical debt, according to KFF data.

However, voters differ in their approval of Biden and Trump’s efforts to address high costs. Ninety percent of Democratic voters believe Biden has done more to address healthcare costs, while 91% of Republicans say Trump did more to address costs while he was in office.

Presidential candidates disagree on ACA and national healthcare plans

The President’s reelection strategy has largely centered on medical access messaging, with healthcare-based campaign ads airing in major swing states. In recent campaign appearances, Biden has said he will restore Roe v. Wade abortion protections.

During his presidency, Biden passed the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, negotiated with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs, placed a $35 cap on insulin, and took steps to expand Medicare and Medicaid. He also built on The Affordable Care Act — a policy enacted under former President Barack Obama — that is favored by a majority of voters, according to KFF.

As of 2023, The US Department of Health and Human Services reported that over 40 million Americans get healthcare coverage through the ACA, the highest recorded number since the law was passed. It includes coverage of emergency medicine, prescription drugs, hospitalization, maternal and pediatric care, lab services, and more.

Trump has been vocal about his plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act should he win reelection. Although many Democrats want to expand the law, about two-thirds of Republicans want the law to be scaled back or repealed entirely.

Still, KFF found that seven in 10 Republican voters don’t think Trump has an alternate affordable healthcare plan.

Like Trump, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has expressed support for bans on abortion and gender-affirming healthcare. In recent debates, Haley has criticized the Biden Administration’s spending on COVID-relief, Affordable Care Act, and Medicaid, suggesting that individual states should set their own health insurance plans.

Have you struggled to afford emergency medical costs or pay off medical debt? Are healthcare costs impacting how you plan to vote this November? Reach out to [email protected].

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