A new Baldwin-Wallace poll, released this week, finds health care is the top issue in deciding how Ohioans will vote for governor and U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
More than 78 percent of respondents said health care was "very important" in their vote for U.S. Senate, only slightly higher than 77 percent who said the same for governor. Health care outranked the economy, taxes, guns, immigration, opioids and even President Trump as major issues for voters.
Rocky River resident Bernie Buckner says neither political party has done enough to solve the problem of high health care costs.
Buckner reached out to ideastream in response to the “You First” initiative, where we asked listeners and viewers to discuss issues that matter to them.
Buckner responded that he is concerned about the price of prescription drugs. He says they are out of control.
“I find it very emotionally draining when I go to CVS and the person in front of me says, ‘How much is it?’ and the individual says, ‘$430’ and they say, ‘Well, take these off for now.’ This should not be,” said Buckner
Now retired, Buckner ran several local law enforcement agencies including the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority police. He says big drug companies need regulations.
“Pharma should be able to make a reasonable return on their money but not necessarily gouge people. Most importantly we can’t hold people’s lives at hand,” Buckner said.
On the other side of the city, East Cleveland resident Justyn Anderson says he left the Republican Party over concerns about health care.
“Our president right now has pretty much gutted Obamacare and that’s leaving millions of Americans uncovered,” Anderson said.
The 26-year-old truck driver also responded to ideastream’s “You First” initiative. He is worried protections for pre-existing conditions may be cut out of health insurance plans.
“I have a lot of family members with pre-existing conditions – diabetes, cancer – and I could be next. So that’s why it’s extremely important who we elect into office,” he said.
Anderson is not alone in his concerns. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll published in September found 75 percent of respondents regardless of party support protections for pre-existing conditions.
When asked by Kaiser if insurers should be prohibited from denying coverage, 86 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans agreed with that statement.
Although health care and the Affordable Care Act had not been winning issues for Democratic candidates in past elections, this time around they are emphasizing their support for Obamacare.
Democratic candidate for governor Richard Cordray said he supports provisions in the ACA that made it illegal for health insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing health conditions.
“There’s only been one law in this country that protected people with pre-existing conditions and it was the Affordable Care Act,” Cordray said, while speaking at a gubernatorial debate in October with Republican Mike DeWine at Cleveland State University
While he previously sued to overturn the Affordable Care Act, DeWine said he now supports some of its provisions, such as Medicaid expansion.
“I think there needs to be work requirement — a work requirement that is not punitive in anyway but is designed to get people back into the game,” Dewine said during the debate.
Republican Jim Renacci, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown for the U.S. Senate, said he supports pre-existing condition protections.
He also supports letting dependents stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26, but he still thinks the ACA is a bad law.
“The Affordable Care Act needs to be changed,” Renacci said during an October debate with Brown in Cleveland. “It’s unaffordable right now and people like Sen. Brown who never lived in the real world and love Washington more than representing Ohio need to understand people can’t afford it.”
Brown responded, “Jim Renacci has voted more than 20 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act and you know what that vote did? That vote took away the consumer protections for pre-existing conditions.”
Buckner says if health costs are not reigned in, voters should start placing referendums on the ballot.
“It’s not Democrat. It’s not a Republican issue. We have unfortunately in this country forgot our humanity,” he said.
Buckner added that the current climate makes it difficult for elected officials to compromise and find solutions.