KFF Health News’ ‘What the Health?’: A Not-So-Health-y GOP Debate

by | Aug 24, 2023 | Health

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For the first time since 2004, it appears health insurance coverage will not be a central issue in the presidential campaign, at least judging from the first GOP candidate debate in Milwaukee Wednesday night. The eight candidates who shared the stage (not including absent front-runner Donald Trump) had major disagreements over how far to extend abortion restrictions, but there was not even a mention of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to repeal since it was passed in 2010.

Meanwhile, a new poll from KFF finds that health misinformation is not only rampant but that significant minorities of the public believe things that are false, such as that more people have died from the covid vaccine than from the covid-19 virus.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, Victoria Knight of Axios, and Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times.

Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

The first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 cycle included a spirited back-and-forth about abortion, but little else about health care — and that wasn’t a surprise. During the primary, Republican presidential candidates don’t really want to talk about health insurance and health care. It’s not a high priority for their base.

The candidates were badly split on abortion between those who feel decisions should be left to the states and those who support a national ban of some sort. Former Vice President Mike Pence took a strong position favoring a national ban. The rest revealed some public disagreement over leaving the question completely to states to decide or advancing a uniform national policy.

Earlier this summer, Stanford University’s Hoover Institute unveiled a new, conservative, free-market health care proposal. It is the latest sign that Republicans have moved past the idea of repealing and replacing Obamacare and have shifted to trying to calibrate and adjust it to make health insurance a more market-based system. The fact that such plans are more incremental makes them seem more possible. Republicans would still like to see things like association health plans and other “consumer-direc …

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