After of being of primary importance in 2012, healthcare is almost an afterthought in the 2016 election.
In a poll of Gallup voters from April 2, 2012, healthcare was rated the single most important issue in that year’s general election between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This year, Gallup polled members of both parties; for Republicans, healthcare the fourth most important issue and for Democrats, it was third.
Sure, both candidates — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for Republicans — have their healthcare talking points. But while the Affordable Care Act and healthcare may have led the stump speeches in 2012, those issues are way down the list in 2016. Moreover, the positions aren't as clear as they may have been just four years ago.
"I don't think healthcare has been discussed much; there has been some talk on what could be done with the Affordable Care Act," says Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the Medical Group Management Association. "Most physicians and practices are philosophically conservative, not in their political beliefs but more in the approach to the intervention of government in the practice of medicine. They want limited intervention. Irrespective of who wins, it's hard to tell in this election which candidate would provide that."
For Trump, his healthcare plans boil down to repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and attempting to build a system based on free-market principles. In addition, the real estate developer says he wants to increase access to imported, safe, reliable drugs to increase competition and lower prices of prescription medication. Clinton plans to fix what's broken about the ACA, such as repealing the "Cadillac tax" on premium health plans, and keep what's working about it, such as the expansion of Medicaid. She also says she'd like to lower out-of-pocket and prescription drug costs through the offer of a tax credit of up to $5,000 to cover costs exceeding 5 percent of a household income, and expand Medicare to make it available for people at the age of 55.
Like most Americans, physicians are divided and not really factoring healthcare into the decision. In this year's Great American Physician Survey, which charted the responses of more than 1,300 physicians on their professional and personal state of mind. Of the respondents, 45.6 percent said they'd vote Republican, 40.2 percent said they'd vote for Democrat, and 14.1 were unsure. While this was conducted as the primaries were wrapping up, before the general election really began to take shape, the answers were similar when it came to party registration. Nearly 37 percent were registered Republicans, 26.6 percent were registered Democrats, and 28.4 percent registered Independent.
A few months into the general election, Physicians Practice spoke to a panel of frontline physicians across different areas, some in battleground states, to get their thoughts on the candidates and how they were voting.
Who and Why
The only thing that seemed to unite those interviewed was a relative distaste for both options. "I cannot make a choice between these two candidates and my choice would have nothing to do with healthcare. My choice will have to do with national security and the economy," says Joseph Zebley, a Baltimore-based family medicine physician at a concierge practice. He says Clinton is untrustworthy but at least has some experience, while Trump doesn't have any experience in healthcare and constantly makes a fool of himself.