Stories by Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation

Voters are tuning out the health care debates

Illustration of blasting speakers in the shape of a red cross
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There's a big disconnect between the health care debates that dominate Washington, the campaigns and the politically active — where all of the talk is about sweeping changes like "Medicare for All" or health care block grants — and what the voters are actually thinking about.

The big picture: In our focus groups with independent, Republican and Democratic voters in several swing states and districts, the voters were only dimly aware of candidates’ and elected officials’ health proposals. They did not see them as relevant to their own struggles paying their medical bills or navigating the health system.

The silent affordability crisis facing sick people

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

People with major medical illnesses are having serious problems paying for the health care they need — a crisis that is flying under the radar while attention is focused on hot policy issues like the Affordable Care Act and "Medicare for All."

The big picture: A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Los Angeles Times shows that a strikingly large share of people with serious medical conditions are struggling to pay their medical bills, often wreaking havoc with their family budgets and causing them to cut back on care.

For low-income people, employer health coverage is worse than ACA

Illustration of heart monitor charting health care costs
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There has been appropriate handwringing since 2010 about the affordability of Affordable Care Act plans in the marketplaces. But new data show that health insurance is decidedly less affordable for lower income people who get coverage at work than for their counterparts with similar incomes in the marketplaces.

Why it matters: It’s another example of how, when we focus so much on the ACA markets, we lose sight of problems in the employer-based health system where far more people get their coverage. For lower-wage workers, their coverage is decidedly worse than ACA coverage is.