Healthcare topped the economy as the biggest issue for voters now, here’s why

Nov. 8, 2018

Healthcare was the top issue for Americans voting in Nov. 6’s midterm elections—for an  understandable reason. Spending on medical care has skyrocketed in the past 20 years, hitting record levels in 2018 and weighing on both workers and employers.

More U.S. voters cited it as their top concern on the ballot, ahead of the economy or any other issue, for the first time in at least a decade, according to exit polls by NBC News.

Forty-one percent of those polled cited healthcare as their top issue, followed by immigration, at 23%. Roughly 70% of all voters, Democrat and Republican, said the U.S. healthcare system needs “major changes,” while only 4% said it needed no changes at all.

The United States spends 18.2% of gross domestic product on healthcare, up slightly from 2017, according to Statista. That amount has jumped more than 260% since 1960, when the U.S. spent 5% of GDP on health costs. In the past decade alone, the percentage of costs to GDP has risen roughly 10%.

Americans spend twice as much as any other high-income country in the world on medical care.

Yet utilization rates in the United States were largely similar to those in other nations, according to a recent academic paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. High prices for doctors and nurses, pharmaceuticals, and administrative costs were major reasons for the disconnect in overall cost between the United States and other high-income countries, according to the research.

Even with the higher spending, Americans are certainly not healthier. Americans smoke less than other high-income countries but have a higher rate of obesity and infant mortality. The average life expectancy is nearly three years lower than other high-income countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.

The U.S. also has lower rates of coverage than other high-income countries. More than 90% of Americans have healthcare after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, but every other top 10 nation by comparison has at least 99% coverage for its population, according to the study.

Companies are taking on a lot of that cost burden. Employer spending on healthcare as a percentage of wages has doubled since the 1980s, to about 12% from 6%, according to a PwC Health Research Institute analysis of CMS national health expenditure data and Bureau of Economic Analysis data.

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage rose 5% this year, to $19,616, outpacing the 2.8% increase in wages, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

But workers are paying more too, an average of $5,547 toward the cost of their coverage. That number is up more than 250% from 1999, when workers paid just $1,543 of their total average $5,791 annual premium costs.

To compare that to other household costs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates prices for housing were 57% higher this year versus 1999. During the same time frame, median household income rose just 2%, in 2017 dollars, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

CNBC has the full story

Sponsored Recommendations

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...

Spotlight on Artificial Intelligence

Unlock the potential of AI in our latest series. Discover how AI is revolutionizing clinical decision support, improving workflow efficiency, and transforming medical documentation...

Beyond the VPN: Zero Trust Access for a Healthcare Hybrid Work Environment

This whitepaper explores how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures secure, least privileged access to applications, meeting regulatory requirements and enhancing user...

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...