Health Care Top of Mind with Voters

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listen as he speaks during a "Care Not Cuts" rally in support of the Affordable Care Act, Sunday, July 9, 2017, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listen as he speaks during a “Care Not Cuts” rally in support of the Affordable Care Act, Sunday, July 9, 2017, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Republicans on the campaign trail this year will be eager to tout the potential benefits of their tax cut plan. Voters like Jeanine Limone Draut, a freelance technical writer in Denver, have something else in mind: health care.

Failed efforts by congressional Republicans last year to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act exposed not only deep divisions within the party but also revealed core benefits of the law that millions of Americans now take for granted. Draut is tired of the attacks and the uncertainty surrounding the law’s future. Both parties are paying attention, especially after a better-than-expected enrollment season under the health care law.

Democrats especially have used health care to go on the attack, and the issue is coming up in congressional races in California, Colorado, Michigan, Washington and elsewhere. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Friday found health care as the top issue voters want congressional candidates to address. Enrollment was especially robust in many of the states that operate their own insurance marketplaces, where enrollment periods were longer than on the federal exchange and promotional budgets were beefed up.

Strong sign-ups came despite Republican attacks against the law and President Donald Trump’s administration taking several steps to undermine it, including cutting the federal sign-up period in half and slashing advertising. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, New York, Vermont and other states with their own exchanges saw enrollment approach or surpass 2017 levels. Minnesota’s health insurance exchange set a record for private plans with an enrollment period that was more than two weeks shorter than in 2017. California’s state exchange, the nation’s largest, has reported more than 1.2 million renewals for 2018 and an additional 342,000 new customers. Its 2018 enrollment period doesn’t end until Wednesday, as does New York’s. Democrats say the level of consumer interest presents a political opportunity.

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