National News

Health Care Still an Issue for Electorate

By Carol Zimmerman

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Health care got plenty of attention during previous presidential election campaigns, but this time around it is almost like a kid craning to see what is going on while other issues take the front seat.

A Pew Research Center poll this summer placed health care behind the economy, terrorism and foreign policy among voters’ concerns and just above gun policy and immigration.

One reason it’s likely not a top issue is that the often contentious Affordable Care Act – which became law in 2010 and was fully implemented in 2015 – has now been upheld twice by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A poll by Kaiser Family Foundation found that fewer than half of respondents wanted elected officials to focus on the Affordable Care Act and less than one-third wanted it fully repealed.

“Health is really a pocketbook issue more than a political issue now,” said Drew Altman, foundation president.

But when presidential candidates discuss health care, the Affordable Care Act is the first thing they mention. Democrat Hillary Clinton promises to defend and expand it, while Republican Donald Trump says he will urge Congress to repeal it.

The Catholic Church has had a complicated relationship with the law. Catholic hospitals have long emphasized that the poor and vulnerable must receive access to health care, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a 2010 letter to Congress, stressed that health care is “a basic human right” and “universal coverage should be truly universal.”

But a major sticking point with the legislation for church leaders is its contraceptive mandate, challenged in courts and sent back to the lower courts by the Supreme Court this summer. The dispute is over the Department of Health and Human Services’ requirement that contraceptive coverage must be included in most employees’ health plans.

Related: Bishops Ask Gov’t to Compromise on ACA